Horse & Rider Development

Classical Naturally Blog

Top 10 Strategies for High-Energy "Naughty" Horses

This horse was born to be a RockStar!  Don't make the mistake of dimming their light!  They have way too much to offer.  Here are 10 training strategies to help you get along with this horse and bring the best out in them.  Once this horse is on your side, there'll be no stopping the two of you! 


 Add a new task, skill, or trick to your training once a week. This horse has a very active mind. Give them something interesting to do, or they’ll come up with their own mischief.  You don't have to change your normal training program or goals.  Just pick something that you can spend 10 minutes on as a warm up or as part of your cool down routine.  Then change it up once a week!


Be very creative in your sessions! Add obstacles, jumping, cavaletti, or liberty training to your regular program.  Heck, go take your eventing horse to a cow clinic!  Train their body AND their mind.  This horse thrives on new experiences and will become a much happier and more well-rounded horse when you feed their mind.


Give them room to move. Free-lunge in large spaces. Lunge on longer ropes 30’-50'. Hack out on the buckle, if that’s safe for you. This FREEDOM will balance out the confinement of riding in contact.  This horse thrives in eventing, ranch work, polo, or endurance.


Be playful & match their energy! Learn to turn your training goals into games and patterns. Play builds rapport and cooperation with this horse.  They're competitive by nature and don't mind training hard. But if you really want to have their full focus and cooperation, give them a well-defined finish line or goal.  Then reward them for succeeding, like they scored the winning goal!


Praise them often. These horses can be challenging if you’re a perfectionist. This horse really goes all in on whatever they're doing, and their nature is to push boundaries.  This can come off as being "defiant", but don't take it personally.  They just can't stand to be kept from the next great thing that they set their sights on.  Find ways to make your idea look good to them.  Focus on what they’re doing right, and celebrate their wins with them.  Rewards, praise, & affection will keep them putting their energy into your goals without taking offense when you re-direct them.


Avoid mindless repetition at all costs! They’ll get bored quickly, and the quality of the task will drop like a rock. They’re quick minded, athletic horses as a rule. Once they make an improvement in the task that you're working on, MOVE ON.  You can always circle back around to do it again at the end of the session or the next session.  Better to take a series of small improvements that will stick, instead of picking a fight you won't win.


Don’t choose this horse for a “slow, calm” job. It’s not in their nature. Forcing them to be slow and not use their minds will cause them to shut down or act out.  


Don’t punish this horse. They don’t understand when you consider their natural behaviors to be “bad” or “disobedient”. This horse is just having fun! Nature gave them a huge desire to push limits, to learn from experiences, to go after resources, and win in a competitive environment.  As a prey animal who is trying to survive, this horse is gifted.  Don't punish their nature... channel it!


If you punish them, you’ll bring out their FIGHT response and they could become aggressive. And if you’re hard enough on them to truly scare or hurt them, they’ll shut down into a state of learned helplessness, anxiety, and depression.  If you get a horse who is in either of those unhealthy emotional states, they can be turned around with some patience.  I generally start with obstacles and clicker training.  That combination is mentally engaging and highly rewarding, so that you have a chance to call a truce and earn trust.


Take on the mindset of being a "TEAM LEADER". They need you to be able to match their energy +1 and channel their energy into your training plan without squashing it. Chose things for them to do that let their talents shine! Put them on task, and give them the FREEDOM to perform. Your positive and negative FEEDBACK is what holds them accountable and keeps them on track without them feeling held down or picked on. 


Happy Training!

~ M



Combining the lightness & artful gymnastic training of French Equitation with the relationship building & motivational psychology of Natural Horsemanship for a more balanced & adaptable approach to horsemanship.

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