Horses learn from each other

Posted on Nov 27, 2015

When Georgie heard that the Extreme Team was booked for the half-time show at an upcoming rodeo, she was determined to add a jump to her already difficult Roman Riding routine. But she only had a few days to teach Phoenix and Trouble the new trick, so I offered to help.

Since Phoenix is a jumper, Georgie and I knew he wouldn’t be the problem. Trouble, on the other hand, lived up to his name by giving us just that… trouble.

Training a horse can be a wonderful experience, but there are times when it can also be challenging. It requires patience and time. Often, the hardest part is getting your horse to understand what you want, or what you’re asking of him. 

When we introduced Trouble to a cavaletti, he balked. So we patiently presented it to him time and time again, but each time he refused to go over it.

As a trainer, it’s important to understand how a horse’s brain works and why he acts like he does. When a horse sees something new, his natural instinct is to take time to study it through a series of advances and retreats to determine if it’s a threat. But horses are also great learners and, starting at a young age, they learn from each other. If one horse reacts to an object in a certain way, chances are the other horse will too. So we had Phoenix tackle the cavaletti in Trouble’s presence, hoping his calming influence would have a positive effect on Trouble’s behavior. And that’s exactly what happened. By having Phoenix lead by example, Trouble relaxed a bit, realized there was nothing to fear… and finally went over the jump.

The next challenge was to get them to jump in sync while strapped together. So we laid down a ground rail in front of the cavaletti, and that worked to cue Trouble that it was time to jump. Soon enough, the team was jumping in sync…

And it was an amazing moment when Georgie and her team performed that jump in front of the crowd at the rodeo!