How we train our horses
We train all our horses using Natural Horsemanship methods. There are a lot of excellent horsemen out there to learn from. We have chosen to stick to Clinton Anderson’s method of horse training, because we feel, that he has an amazing ability as a teacher. His numerous clinics, DVD’s and books are an excellent resource for all horse owners, and demonstrate clearly how the horse thinks, and how to teach him respect without introducing fear – the most important aspect of horse training. For more information on Clinton Anderson, please refer to our link section.
At Vaquera ranch, we start all our horses with groundwork, and a lot of it. Horses learn to move their feet immediately in the direction they are asked to, and also to stand still and accept being touched with a variety of objects like the lead rope, human touch, and other scary objects including plastic or a rope swinging over their head. Although this heavy emphasis on groundwork sometimes gets us raised eyebrows, we think it is the safest way to start a horse, or retrain one. You just have much better control over the horse on the ground, and in case something goes wrong, it is much safer not to be on the horse when it happens. On the ground, there are endless ways and opportunities to teach a horse respect, and activate the thinking side of his brain. Also, many excercises teach the horse how to move off pressure, and once he has learned this on the ground, it is much easier for him to understand what is asked of him under saddle. Everytime I run into major problems riding a horse, I get off and try to fix it from the ground. Usually this practice helps a lot, and the horse takes on more quickly.
How long we spend on groundwork depends on the individual horse. Usually it takes about 2 to 4 weeks until the first ride. Once under saddle, we spend the first 90 days on the basics, the horse will learn lateral flexion, go forward off light pressure when asked, and stop off the seat, as well as off the pull of the reins. He will back up with ease, and disengage his hindquarters. He will also have learnt some excersices teaching him to be soft and subtle, to move off leg pressure, and to be responsible for his own feet, meaning, that the rider doesn’t have to constantly kick or pull on the horse.
At Vaquera ranch we also make sure, that during his first 3 months of training, the horse is exposed to unfamiliar things on the trail, and as many different riders as possible. Usually, all my kids (ages 16 to 3) have ridden the horse by the time he has gone through his foundational training, and is ready for sale.
These pictures show Wanda in action at groundwork sessions with various horses: