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This Trainer's Life: Keg, The Initial Intake

This is Keg. He is a 9-10 year old POA brought to me by his owner for a refresher. She is very much a beginner and this horse was given to her as broke, but not having anything done with him in the last couple of years. He came in for an initial intake assessment where I look over the horse, handle them for a week and measure their curiosity for intelligence, train-ability, tolerance, and acceptance to assess their personality. I will also assess their conformation and athletic ability to help best match them for their proposed job. Keg basically passed the assessment with flying colors to be a mount for his beginner owner for trail riding and recreational use.

So here comes the hard part now, working on changing his behavior. The reason why this is going to be a challenge is because he is an alpha horse in the heard and also hasn’t been worked with much so has developed some bad habits. The bonus working with him though is he does not resist correction and training, he just doesn’t get why he has to listen to me, but he’ll get it. My job is to make sure I win every battle and that I am clear with every instruction I give him.

For more on establishing yourself as the alpha check out

Groundwork: Learning to Speak Horse

I can tell that somewhere in his lifetime he has had some good training. There are times when he is rude and I correct him and he responds quickly and respectfully knowing he shouldn’t have acted that way. My biggest complaint with him is that in his past training he was taught to be light and responsive in his head, but not his feet. He gives his head beautifully and is very light and responsive, but his feet are like he’s wearing concrete shoes!

Why is it so important to get his feet light? Because when you have control of the feet you have control of the mind. I can tell I don’t have control of his mind because his eyes are always looking elsewhere, they are not focused on me and what I’m asking him to do. I will have my work cut out for me to establish myself as the alpha and get his respect. That’s all he’s doing, testing my authority. He is used to being the alpha and have to watch over the herd and not rely on someone else to tell him what to do. He has no reason to listen to me; he is the alpha, so I will have to prove to him that I will be alpha in our relationship.

For more on controlling the feet check out Groundwork: Move Those Feet!

In addition to my teaching him that I am alpha, I will also need to teach his owner how to be the alpha and how to keep that position. Some of you may be thinking that he isn’t a good horse for a beginner, but I will argue that point. He does not resist the training as some would. He is soft and willing to learn. He does have great respect for those who challenge him and keep him in his place. And honestly you need to do this with any and every horse you interact with.

Every horse will challenge your authority in their own way. Some will purposefully push you to get you to move your feet and establish themselves as the alpha, and those are the ones that do it nicely. Others will take a small step forward and see if they get away with it, then it will turn into two steps, then three, then you have a horse that will not stand when asked. There is no horse that won’t challenge your authority; mine do it on a daily basis. They do it halfheartedly now, just to test and most times I don’t need to do much more than just give them “the look” to put them in their places.

Keg will not be released to go home with his owner until she has complete control over him on the ground and in the saddle and she is comfortable with him. I’m looking forward to the challenge, I embrace each chance I get to work with a horse and learn. Each horse has something to teach me.

Let the challenge begin…

If you have any questions about the work I have been doing please don't hesitate to contact me. I want to see you and your horse succeed in all you do and have the same relationship with them as I do with mine that I treasure so much.