Basic Horsemanship Principles and Fundamental Training for Horse and Rider

September 25, 2017

BASIC HORSEMANSHIP PRINCIPLES
Steven M. Jones Extension Horse Specialist
University of Arkansas

 

FUNDAMENTAL TRAINING FOR HORSE AND RIDER
Gary Stauffer and Monte Stauffer, Extension Educators
University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Adapted from eXtension Horse Quest Articles

 

The Natural Cues

Cues are the signals by which the rider tells the horse what to do. They are signals which the horse must be taug

 

ht to understand and obey. These are natural cues — hands, legs, seat or weight and voice. No special equipment like whips or spurs is required.

 

Video Training Tips: Natural Aids

 

Hands

The hands communicate the rider’s commands to a well-trained horse by applying pressure or contact to the horse’s mouth. The horse can respond in several different ways, depending on the kind of pressure or contact. The hands can ask the horse to stop, help control the horse’s speed or ask the horse to turn.

 

Riders may have heavy hands, passive hands or controlled hands.

  • Heavy hands typically disturb the horse. This is usually the result of an unsteady seat or the fear that the horse will get out of control.

  • Passive hands are light but ineffective. Passive hands belong to riders with a good balanced seat but little knowledge about riding a horse.

  • Controlled hands are quiet but effective. These riders combine the use of hands and legs. Controlled hands get the desired results without upsetting the horse.

Video Training Tips: Teaching the Horse to Turn and Give to Pressure

 

Legs

The rider’s legs communicate motion to the horse. Squeezing with both lower legs will make the horse go forward. If the horse is properly trained, leg pressure, combined with proper contact on the horse’s mouth, will produce the following types of movements:

  • Straight forward motion

  • Sidepass (horse moves sideways)

  • Haunch turn (horse pivots on its hindquarters)

  • Forehand pivot (horse pivots on its forequarters)

  • Bending (horse bends its body to the inside of a circle)

Video Training Tips: Teaching the Horse to Respond to Leg Pressure

 

Seat (Weight)

Slight shifts in the rider’s weight help the horse in going forward, backing or sidepassing. When the rider’s weight shifts slightly forward, this helps the horse in moving forward. If the rider’s weight shifts slightly back, this helps the horse in backing. It is important to learn how to sit naturally and softly and to use body movements in harmony with the movements of the horse. Remember to use only slight shifts in body movement, not exaggerated weight shifts that may throw the horse off balance.

 

Video Training Tips:  Halting and Disengaging the Hindquarters

 

Voice

The horse will also learn to respond to voice cues such as “walk,” “jog” (trot), “lope” (canter) and “whoa.” It is important to use the voice quietly but firmly. The horse has a very good sense of hearing, so never yell or scream. The noise may frighten it.

 

Application of Cues

Always apply the lightest possible cue that will get the horse to respond. Do not jerk the horse’s mouth or kick the horse’s sides. The cues applied on a trained horse should be almost invisible to the observer but clear and definite to the horse. Each cue should include the complete harmony of the rider’s hands, legs, seat and voice. For the best performance from the horse, all cues are properly timed together, not each one by itself.

 

Walk

 

To get the horse to walk:

  1. Maintain a slight amount of contact on the horse's mouth.

  2. Squeeze with the calves of both legs.

  3. Shift body weight slightly forward.

  4. Tell the horse to "walk."

Once the horse is walking:

  1. Release the leg pressure.

  2. Release a little of the pressure on the horse's mouth.

Jog or Trot

 

To get the horse to jog or trot:

  1. Maintain a slight amount of contact on the horse's mouth.

  2. Squeeze with the calves of both legs, using more pressure than for the walk.

  3. Shift body weight slightly forward.

  4. Tell the horse to "jog" or "trot."

Once the horse is jogging or trotting:

  1. Release the leg pressure.

  2. Release a slight amount of pressure on the horse's mouth.

Video Training Tips: The Walk and Jog

 

Lope or Canter

To get the horse to lope or canter in the balance, it must be on the correct lead. A horse that is circling to the left (counterclockwise) must be on the left lead. A horse circling to the right (clockwise) must be on the right lead.

 

To get the horse to lope or canter on the left lead:

  1. Maintain a slight amount of contact on the horse’s mouth.

  2. Apply leg pressure with the right calf, slightly behind the girth.

  3. Shift body weight slightly forward. Do not shift weight to the left.

  4. Tell the horse to “lope” or “canter.”

To get the horse to lope or canter on the right lead:

  1. Maintain a slight amount of contact on the horse’s mouth.

  2. Apply leg pressure with the left calf, slightly behind the girth.

  3. Shift body weight slightly forward. Do not shift weight to the right.

  4. Tell the horse to “lope” or “canter.”

Once the horse is loping or cantering:

  1. Release the leg pressure.

  2. Release a slight amount of pressure in the horse’s mouth.

Video Training Tips: The Lope

 

References and Other Recommended Reading

 

Additional resources on horsemanship principles:

Jones, Steven. Basic Horsemanship Principles.  University of Arkansas Extension Bulletin FSA3028.

Fundamental Training for Horse and Rider.  eXtension HorseQuest Article.

Stimulus for Horse Learning.  eXtension HorseQuest Article.

Response for Horse Learning.  eXtension HorseQuest Article.

Reinforcement for Horse Learning.  eXtension HorseQuest Article.

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