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Training a three year old warmblood mare

Hello Franklin,

I found your web-site and found it very very useful, so thank you for your work. I saw there were some questions people have sent you concerning the problems with horses. I am sending mine from Finland and I hope you also answer to overseas.

I have a Trakhener/Hannoverian mare which is now 3 years old. I have done round pen and also natural horsemanship with that special halter and long rein. Now I'm having problems lungeing her as she refuses to move. When I ask her to trot she will a few meters only. I have to use a lot of my body, whip and voice to get her going on. I wonder is that due to a that natural horsemanship thing that she has become too used to aids which has been so "big" like running few steps after him to get her trot etc. She has no dicipline to continue in a certain gait until told otherwise. Now I'm afraid what to do with her, so I won't spoil and make her run too much and more and more.

Should I just use the lunge whip once on her and then hope the best. Or what can I do to make her move trot and gallop on lungeing? She has been ridden 4 times and once trotting. And it wasn't easy to ge her to trot although there was another horse in front to give some help.

I'm desperate. Is she just lazy?

With best regards from Finland, Siuntio ... Ms Satu Kokkonen

Hello Satu,

I do respond to emailed questions from around the world. However, I think this is my first one from Finland. These international emails are how I get invited to present programs in other countries. So, if my suggestions work for you and you have a few friends who might be interested in my brand of effective, efficient and gentle horsemanship, please let me know. Coming to Finland would be my pleasure.

Warmbloods like your horse mature rather late. So, I would consider your horse still a baby and very green. It will be after 6 or 7 years of age that your horse will be considered fully mature mentally and physically. So, I caution you against judging your horse one way or another at this point. Also, it is truely all about us and how we train our horses and not so much about the horse. The round pen is a good tool to use to help train her to keep moving as well as many other lessons. You can do it on a long line as well. Rewarding the horse for attempts (trying) at compliance is an integral part of a good training method. Do you understand how to reward a horse immediately for an attempt at compliance? Can you immediately spot the horse 'trying ' to comply? This takes some practice and knowledge of the mind of a horse.

Try using a flag rather than whip. A flag can be a plastic bag on the end of a dressage whip or a stick about the same length or a bit longer. Do not get into hitting the horse. Move the horse off one-step-at-a-time first and reward every step. Then you build on that gradually, going farther and faster over time. This whole process may take a month or more. No rush as training happens over time with a lot of consistency and patience. Don't expect too much, too fast from your young horse. The reward is a brief rest and maybe a Good Girl verbally. The great reward is putting the horse away as it will remember what it did before the big reward and be glad to see you the next day. Nothing wrong with "Natural Horsemanship" other than it being an overused marketing term and not appropriately taught most of the time. There is nothing natural about the way we keep or train horses. I did a program called 'Un- natural Horsemanship' just for fun and it went really well.

Try not to get frustrated because your horse will become the same way. Your horse simply does not understand what you expect from it. Patience, skill, leadership, guidence and compassion are the main things. Get creative and do not do the same thing for more than a few minutes before you modify the exercise. Your horse has less of an attention span than you realize. Perhaps the purchase of a training dvd or two would be helpful. There are many good ones out there. I have several in my shopping corral that would prove beneficial. No matter whose you get, I suggest you get a couple and watch them a few times. Biggest thing for you to grasp at this juncture is that your horse is still mentally and physically young. Keeping sessions short (20-30 minutes) and perhaps several in a day (AM and PM) is fine for young horses. Please do not push too hard, too fast for your horse to learn lessons.

Let me know how it all goes and your thoughts on what I have offered. Please do keep in touch and let me know if I can be of additional assistance.

Sincerely, Franklin

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