Want a responsive horse? Leave him alone says Warwick Schiller

Warwick Schiller
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Warwick Schiller is an accomplished horseman who competed in reining at international level and represented Australia at the World Equestrian Games at Kentucky in 2010. He now travels all over the world teaching people the principles of training.

Make the right thing easy

In my show Training with Warwick Schiller I attempt to help people understand that all successful horse trainers use the same principles, whether you are an Olympic gold medal dressage rider or a world champion reiner.

But you don’t need to be a top trainer to put these principles into practice – they are all achievable for the average horse owner. It’s more of a mental paradigm shift that is needed, rather than attaining new skills.

Don’t nag

The first episode is called Make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy. Many people get too hung up on the ‘hard’ part and forget the ‘easy’ part. To put it in the most basic terms, this principle is about leaving your horse alone when they are doing what you want.

You have probably heard this before, in the form of not nagging with your leg. When your horse is not forward enough (wrong thing) you use your leg – this makes it hard for him to do the wrong thing. When your horse goes forward (right thing), you need to release your leg. Keeping your leg on after you get the response gives no distinction between what is the right thing to do and what is wrong.

Release the pressure

Many people struggle with this principle when loading a horse onto a lorry or a trailer. They pull on the lead rope to get the horse moving into the lorry (the wrong thing is standing still), but when the horse moves forwards (right thing) they keep pulling, instead of releasing. This makes walking forward hard, instead of easy.

The principle behind two seemingly unrelated things – not nagging with your leg and loading a horse – are the same. The key thing is your horse doesn’t learn from pressure, he learns from the release of pressure.

Get more great advice from Warwick in our new series Training with Warwick Schiller, which premieres on 11 April at 9pm on Sky 253. If you don’t have Sky you can watch online by subscribing to H&C Play.

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