Quit while you’re ahead

Knowing when to quit is an important part of being a successful horse trainer (remember every time you work with a horse you are training it). In order for the horse to understand when he’s done the right thing, it is important to stop asking and reward him at the right time. Timing is everything. Wait to long to reward and the horse won’t be able to make the connection between the desired behavior and the reward. Continue asking without reward and you’ll only cause confusion. There was a Facebook post going around that demonstrated this principle well. It goes something like this:

Teacher: What day is it?

Student: Monday

Teacher: What day is it?

Student: The 24th of June

Teacher: What day is it?

Student: ????

You see the teacher continued to ask the same question without ever rewarding the correct answer. This led to confusion and frustration on the part of the student. The same thing happens with our horses when we fail to reward them. The horse becomes confused and frustrated and eventually this leads to resistance and bigger problems. Horses become labeled as stubborn, lazy, or even aggressive when really the poor horse just doesn’t understand what is expected of it.

Reward for the horse can be as simple as stopping the work. Continueing to drill the horse in something he has already done well can lead to frustration and loss of interest from the horse because he doesn’t understand why you are continuing to ask him to do something he has already done. Repetition is necessary to training a horse but short sessions are better than a long amount of time spent drilling the same thing. Horses have fairly short attention spans and once they move past this time frame it becomes much more difficult for them to understand and retain what you are trying to teach them.

It’s important to keep training interesting for the horse. Don’t spend too much time working on one thing. Give the horse a few minutes to relax and process what you were trying to teach him. If you sense that you are losing his attention or he is getting frustrated, try working on something else for a while and then come back to what you were originally working on. And if he does something particularly well, that’s a great time to stop working him all together and reward him for what he has done.

When you make training fun for the horse, rather than work, you will have a horse that looks forward to learning new things and tries his best for you.


To learn more about how to develop a better relationship with your horse, visit our website or blog, where we feature information about classical dressage and liberty training, as well as care and maintenance of the horse!