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Maintaining A Horse's Sensitivity So You May Achieve Lightness In Riding

May 30, 2008
Think of how sensitive your horse is--even if you don't think he is particularly sensitive to your aids at all. Think of how reactive he is just to the persistent presence of an annoying fly at his belly.

Horses are by their very nature sensitive creatures. They need to be because, in the wild, if they were dull and not sensitive to all that goes on in their surroundings, they would be someone else's prey.

Take the horse's sensitive nature and put him with a human for some time and that nature can change. Picture a horse that has been repeatedly exposed to conflicting aids, for example, a rider who kicks him to go but then accidentally pulls on the reins when she loses her balance. Or a horse whose rider has little control over her leg and constantly clinks her legs in his side. Eventually both horses may very well shut down and tune out the aids, becoming perceived as dead to the leg, dull, hard to get moving or downright sour. He gradually becomes desensitized.

Likewise, horses that aren't given a sufficient reward system can follow the same desensitization course. When riding your horse, you are always training him, and that training needs to balance a proper reward/discipline program so your horse not only learns what he should and should not do but that he also doesn't desensitize to you.

For a horse that is working, the greatest reward is an end to the work. Discipline or punishment is a continuation of the work. Constant repeated continuation of work or schooling a particular element over and over even when the horse has done it well just leads to desensitization. (How many times have you heard someone refer to a horse that has gone sour? That's likely a horse that has not had a proper reward system for doing the work correctly. The fact that such horses ever learn anything is a miracle in itself!)

As a horse grows further desensitized and duller, the rider's aids increase to achieve a desired response and attaining lightness is nearly impossible.

As a rider, your goal needs to be riding in lightness, that is, achieving what you want from your horse with minute imperceptible aids. Picture a top show hunter, grand prix dressage horse or champion reining horse. You barely see the rider do anything, and it seems as though the horse is doing everything on his own. What you don't see is that the horse has been maintained to still retain sensitivity by a rider who rides in lightness.

When you have a training goal for your horse, keep in mind the reward system and remember that he will learn best when there is an end to the work. And always end on a good note

Hope you will continue and visit our resource box links below. Make sure to bookmark them and ad them to your favorites for future reference.

Thanks
About the Author
Ron Petracek was raised in Southern Idaho with horses and the great outdoors. With this continued passion He now shares through a a vast equine network. Learn more by clicking the links below. Amazing Equine Network System - Buy Sell or trade anything equine related. Get More Horse Classified coverage and distribution with less cost and work. Award Winning Horse Forum.
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