This article builds on our Sensitizing and Desensitizing concepts, so it is a good idea to also read that training article.
Would you like your horse to become more responsive to your cues? Have you ever applied a cue to your horse, only to find that he is completetly ignoring your request? You know for a fact your horse can feel the cue, but he is simply ignoring and/or refusing to obey to his full potential. We call this the “The Patience Game”, all horses have played this game with their owner/trainer, some more than others.
The horse knows that he does not have to obey the cue, he thinks if he can just ignore it or pretend it’s not there, you will give up and release the pressure. You must teach the horse that he will never again win at this game.
Allowing a horse to win at this game is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a rider, owner or trainer.
If you release the pressure from your cue before the horse responds as desired, you will have taught him that your cue means ‘do nothing’ or ‘do the wrong thing’. If you just stick in there and show your horse that you have more patience than him by steadily applying the cue until the desired result is met, he will soon learn that he will not win at this patience game! The result is a much more responsive horse.
Don’t give up or YOU will lose the game! Each time you lose this game, training your horse will become more frustrating and difficult.
Here are a couple examples of how the rider/owner/trainer loses at this game. Try your best to avoid losing in any similar situation.
Horse / rider / owner / trainer game senario
1. A rider is trotting along and applies leg pressure on the horse’s sides to ask him to extend his trot. The horse does not respond, so the rider removes the pressure and decides to give up instead. HORSE WINS! Rider loses. Game over.
Ideal senario: The rider instead keeps the pressure applied until the horse extends his trot a little, then once the horse responds, she rewards him by immediately removing the pressure, RIDER WINS! Horse loses. Yay !
2. A trainer is teaching a foal to be halterbroke. The trainer applies pressure forward on the halter to ask him to step forward. The foal does not step forward, instead he steps backwards. The trainer then releases the pressure and decides it will be easier to ask him to turn first, to get him going. HORSE WINS! Trainer loses! Ha Ha !
Ideal senario: The trainer instead keeps the pressure applied until the foal takes a step forward, then immediately removing the pressure as a reward. TRAINER WINS! Horse loses. Yay !
3. An owner is attempting to pick out her horse’s feet. She runs her hand down his leg and gently squeezes on the back of his cannon bone. The horse does not respond, so she then releases the pressure and leans against his shoulder to get him to shift his weight to the other side. HORSE WINS! Owner loses. Bummer!
Ideal senario: The owner instead keeps steady pressure on the horse’s cannon bone without leaning on him, until the horse responds by picking up his foot. The owner immediately releases pressure to reward him. OWNER WINS! Horse loses. Yay!
When you can recognize and play the game well, you will win every time and your horse will become much more responsive to every cue you use.