Our training programs progress through the Seasons, starting as basic little 'seedlings' in Spring, developing into glorious 'mature plants' in Winter. Browse through the Seasons using the icons above.
Spring 01 - Targeting
Keen to find a clear way to communicate with your horse? Teaching your horse to target is not just a fun party trick, but rather an excellent way to teach your horse the Three Agreements. Herman, aka Mr Handsome, is an eager 7-year old KWPN gelding. In this film Jenku teaches him how to target a cone while safely behind the stable door. This exercise underpins the Three Agreements which is a way to communicate clearly and effectively with your horse. The Three Agreements include 1) a clear way of saying YES, this is what I want 2) a clear way of saying NO, this is not what I want 3) a clear way of saying that I will always set you up to find neutral and a place of relaxation. By only rewarding the behaviour that you want, your horse will quickly learn to eliminate unwanted behaviour. As rider, Tracy, points out - successful targeting to the left and right is the foundation for lunge work. What better way to learn than with positive reinforcement and consistent rewards?
Key points: Clear communication, targeting, Three Agreements, reward, positive reinforcement, foundation for lunge work.
Spring 02 - Head Down
The simplest way to teach your horse to work long and low without gadgets is by using a target. In this film, Jenku builds on the previous targeting work done over the stable door, by taking the horse into the arena and getting him to target a cone on the ground. Herman quickly learns that interfering with the human gives him no reward, but that Jenku’s finger pointed to the ground is the cue he needs to follow. If your horse gets stuck, lower your criteria and bring the cone up to him to remind him of the task at hand. Light downward pressure on the halter will also provide him with the direct feedback he needs to focus on the cone. Consistent and direct feedback sets the horse up for success and enables him to relax and learn at the same time. Long and low work will help Herman work through his back and carry himself more without relying on his rider.
Key points: long and low, without gadgets, targeting, hand signals, direct feedback, relaxation, working over back.
Spring 03 – Lunge Buttons
Herman is a big-framed, 17hh youngster. He has lovely loose paces, but he can lose his balance easily. Lunge work is a great way for him to learn to balance himself and figure out just where his limbs are. In this film - instead of just chasing him in a circle - Jenku teaches Herman some “buttons” that will translate into ridden work. The stick pointed at the shoulder means that he must move out on the circle; while the stick pointed to the hind quarter teaches the horse to engage his inside hind leg. No gadgets, no stress and a natural progression from all the targeting work that you’ve done – what could be more graceful? For his owner, Tracy, teaching Herman these buttons in hand means that he will already understand the cues from her hands and legs when he is ridden.
Key points: balance, lightness, suppleness, buttons, no gadgets, no stress, natural progression, hand signals.
Spring 04 - Basic Canter
What’s Herman up to this time? Teaching your horse to stay in canter by himself without you working really hard is much easier than you think. In this film Jenku demonstrates how you can achieve 'cruise control' where your horse learns to stay in the canter by himself. Click once and he must respond, and then he must stay in the canter - don't keep clucking! Once you have this established you will learn there is so much more you can achieve on the lunge. Instead of lungeing for fitness, you can use it to teach your horse self-carriage, encourage him to step under with his inside hind leg and come up in the poll naturally without harsh aids or draw reins. By teaching your horse skill sets, he will feel light in your hand and will be able to engage more behind. You can also have fun playing with transitions to increase relaxation and flexibility.
Key points: sustaining canter; self-carriage, engagement, balance, lightness, transitions, relaxation and flexibility.
In this Summer Season we can already see huge improvement. Follow each step and we will soon be in 'full bloom'!
Summer 01 - Leading
Foals are hardwired to stick to their mum’s side like glue. In this film, Jenku overlays this instinct with training your horse to find neutral next to your shoulder when you are leading him. Most people don’t give leading their horse much thought - until it goes wrong and you’re either skiing behind him or dragging him along. You can achieve so much by teaching your horse to lead calmly and correctly. Not only will it make walking to the paddock or stable safer, but it helps train your horse to find the invisible box which correlates to your ridden work. As we’ve seen from the other films, horses think in pictures so Herman quickly learns that when Jenku’s hand is forward, he needs to walk on. When Jenku leans back slightly and brings his hand up, a bit like pulling up a hand brake, then Herman needs to slow down or stop. You can have such fun playing with this exercise and it’s a great way to get horses to learn to shift their balance towards their hind quarters effortlessly. You can easily integrate this into your daily routine.
Key points: horse instinct to find neutral next to their leader, calm and safe handling, respecting the boundaries of the invisible box in preparation for ridden work, ambidextrous horse and rider.
Summer 02 - Rein Back
Relaxed, light and straight – these sound like the comments Tracy (and most other riders) would love to see in her dressage test. Dressage is all about collection and getting your horse’s hind legs forward and underneath the deepest part of the saddle where the rider’s weight is. A relaxed, light and straight rein back is just one of the exercises you can do to help your horse uncontract his back and get his abdominal muscles working effectively. This is gym work for horses! Most people only think about rein back when they’re riding but training your horse to do a rein back in hand, in a halter makes absolute sense. In this film, Herman discovers that rein back is no big deal and a natural follow-on from leading within the invisible box. It starts with a cue to take a step backwards. Next Jenku works on making sure Herman is relaxed, then light in the halter and then straight. Lightness in hand makes for a nice polite horse to handle, but you’re looking for the same qualities when you ride.
Key points: relaxation, lightness, straightness, collection, engagement, uncontracting back muscles, using abdominal muscles.
Summer 03 - Long & Low
The foundation of all training should be relaxation. You can’t train to Grand Prix level with tension and then miraculously expect it to disappear. Instead, it’s something you should build in from the very start. In this film, clever Herman remembers his targeting lesson over the stable door and takes it a step further by targeting cones on the ground. The horse’s nervous system has complex biofeedback loops. If you can train your horse to opt for a long and low position, this taps into his parasympathetic or “rest and digest” state. In this grazing state his back will uncontract, and blood will rush to his digestive system rather than his muscles. This long and low position lets his brain know that it can relax. Next, by laying the cones out in a circle on the ground, Jenku trains Herman to complete a circle while totally calm. Ultimately, you can get rid of the cones, but if they help you and your horse focus on something while you’re fine-tuning your training, then use them. The cones are like training wheels on your bicycle. You can ditch them once you’re confident, but they serve a purpose.
Key points: complex biofeedback loops, long and low position, parasympathetic “rest and digest” state, uncontracting back muscles, using cones to help your horse learn to stretch.
Summer 04 - Invisible Horsebox
We all know about the Emperor’s clothes, but what about the Emperor’s horsebox? In this film, Jenku shows you how to shape your horse’s body without force or manipulation. It all starts by encouraging your horse to step forwards and backwards using your piaffe whip at their shoulder. Once they’re doing this nicely, you’ll learn how to shift them to the left and the right. Because you don’t want your horse heavy on the forehand, next up is the in hand half halt. Once your horse is light and responsive, you can put him on a circle and help him shape his body by pointing your whip where your leg would be. You’re looking for a nice, soft bend through the whole body with the inside hind leg stepping through and under. Horses think in pictures, so your hand and body up means your horse must lighten in front and shift his weight behind. Tracy is quick to point out that this in hand mastery translates into ridden work. She knows that when Herman’s weight is back, he’s able to move his feet better for movements like leg yields, shoulder in or renvers. In hand training is not about teaching tricks, but rather training the answer before you ask the question.
Key points: shaping your horse’s body without force or manipulation, heavy on forehand, training the half halt in hand, lightness and responsiveness, suppleness, engagement, shifting weight behind, training the answer before you ask the question.
Our lessons are starting to 'bear fruit' in this Autumn Season, as more complex movements are beginning to take shape.
Autumn 01 - Long & Low Canter
The Old Masters used to say; ‘Train in a walk, establish in a trot, test in the canter’. In this film Jenku encourages Herman to work long and low. Herman has already learned to target a plastic cone on the ground in the previous seasons. Now that he has that figured out, Jenku shows us how to use our body language to train your horse to relax and lower his head. Once Herman is consistently walking with his head lowered, Jenku ups the criteria and asks him to trot. Herman lifts his head, but because he doesn’t get rewarded for this, he quickly realises that the treats only come when his head is lowered. You can now start spacing your rewards and instead of rewarding him every time he lowers his head, you can reward when he has lowered his head twice in a row. This is how you’ll train your horse to stay down for longer periods of time. What’s the point? Muscles work in pairs, so the abdominal muscles can only work properly and get the hind legs swinging when the back is relaxed. The back muscles are only able to relax when the horse has his head lowered.
Key points: old masters, long and low, relaxed back, body language, spacing your rewards, understanding how muscles work in pairs, abdominal muscles, engagement.
Autumn 02 – Vertical Flexion
There’s nothing in conventional training that gives you the tools to teach your horse how to come into vertical flexion without gadgets and gizmos. If your horse is food motivated, you can redirect his energy into something useful for dressage and train a cue for vertical flexion. This is also a great exercise for rainy days, as you can train this in the stable. A horse’s neck acts as a balancing pole. If you can train the neck to go into different positions, then you can influence his body and shift his weight around. In this film Jenku initially lures Herman into the correct position using food. Jenku clicks and rewards when Herman flexes at his poll. As Herman gets more familiar with this shape, Jenku only needs a hand signal to cue vertical flexion, and it doesn’t take Herman long to figure out what he needs to do. The next phase of the exercise is to help Herman tuck his pelvis under so that his abdominals contract. He looks like a ‘sheep on a shoebox’, and helps him redistribute his weight for optimal movement. Add vertical flexion to this and - without reins or other aids - you’re able to condition your horse’s body and get him fit and ready for collected work.
Key points: vertical flexion, gadgets and gizmos, redirecting food motivation, neck shape, balance, shift weight, rotating pelvis, contracting abdominals, sheep on a shoebox, collection.
Autumn 03 – Direct Canter
This exercise is not for beginners, but rather for those who have watched and learned from the previous films and already have built some buttons into their horses! The aids for the direct canter are clear. Herman needs to rein back one deliberate footstep at a time. When his weight has shifted towards his hind quarters, Jenku raises his hand so that Herman lifts his poll, the whip is at Herman’s inside shoulder and with one cluck, Herman strikes off. This can’t be done if Herman is heavy on the forehand or slow to respond to the canter cue. Jenku clicks and rewards him as soon as he strikes off. If he makes a mistake – such as striking off disunited, Jenku provides feedback and Herman tries again. This mindset is focussed on success and incremental gains. It assumes you will try, fail, try, improve. Repeat. While food is the most obvious reward, when your horse is working and lactic acid is building up in his muscles, by inviting him in to rest, you’re also rewarding him. He’ll soon realise that being with you, is a good place to be and that training is rewarding rather than punishing.
Key points: focus, accurate feedback, clear communication, weight shift to hind quarters, canter strike off, forehand, disunited, try, fail, improve, repeat, incremental gains, rewarding with rest.
Autumn 04 - Poll Up
Horses think in pictures, so if you’ve watched the previous films you will have learned that pointing down means long and low, your arm extended away from you means move forward or extend your neck while your finger pointing skywards means, poll up. It’s important to remember, however, that true flexion doesn’t happen by holding your horse in a false frame in front. In this film Jenku really explains the horse biomechanics so that finally we understand what is meant by ‘riding the horse from ‘back to front’. He we can see it is the result of the hind legs swinging forward and ender to where the rider would be sitting. Then the abdominals kick in and the horse is able to lift his back, his withers rise, the base of the neck comes up, the poll lifts and his head falls into place naturally at the end of his neck. Finally it all makes sense when Jenku explains it! Don’t worry if you get stuck. Slow down, go back a stage and start again. The set up is really important and you need to make sure your horse is supple through his body with a good lateral bend. Practising a little every day is the key to improvement.
Key points: poll up, true flexion, false frame, engagement, abdominals, lifting back, withers rising, base of neck coming up, suppleness, lateral bend, calm and relaxed.
Finally, this is where it all comes together. In this Winter Season, our lessons which started as 'little seedlings' in Spring, have developed into glorious 'mature plants' - wow this is impressive!
Winter 01 - Lateral Bend
While it’s important for horses to stay relaxed and long and low, this makes them heavy on the forehand. So, when you ask them to come up, the other way to get them to relax is to ask them for a lateral bend through their bodies. They’re still stretching one half of their body while the other half is contracted. In this film on the lunge, you’ll see good balance and good form as Herman is getting set up for more advanced work. To help communicate with Herman we have a few buttons. The pressure halter knots touch on the facial nerves and the whip directs Herman’s shoulder. When you touch deliberately just behind the wither, you want him to bend his body. You’ll notice that as Herman finds more suppleness, his hind leg swings under more and he then lifts his torso. Next up is the canter. As Herman relaxes into the movement, his body swings and he discovers what self carriage feels like - all by himself. Tracy is thrilled! This is so much more than just lungeing - it’s much more beneficial. It’s teaching your horse to manage his own body without constraints. Herman! You’re a machine.
Key points: Lateral bend, suppleness, balance, engagement, self carriage, good form, communication, halter knots, facial nerves, whip aid, influencing the shoulder.
Winter 02 – Rapid Transitions
Let’s do this thing! Herman and Jenku are in rapport and it’s wonderful to watch. It looks as though they are dancing. In this film, Jenku and Herman work on rapid transitions. You can only do this when your horse is light and responsive and is able to find his best balance. To test this, run through a few movements. Can Herman move softly forwards and backwards? Can you move him sideways on both reins? Is he attentive and eager to participate? If you’re ticking these boxes, then you’re good to go! Keep your own body language slow and deliberate. If your set up is good, he will read you, and he will transition through the paces with ease. When you progress to canter, just do a few strides before you bring him back. Teaching your horse to wait is important, otherwise you’ll end up pulling in his mouth which will make him feel trapped. Then oppositional reflex kicks in and… oh dear! It’s much better if your horse learns the answers on the ground before you start asking the questions under saddle. Come on Herman – one, two, three cha, cha, cha!
Key points: rapport, set up, up in the poll, sitting behind, rapid transitions, lightness, responsiveness, balance, body language, consistent cues, self carriage, learning to wait in canter.
Winter 03 - Basic Liberty (Freestyle Introduction)
Don’t be afraid to try! We all learn by a process of trial and success. In this film Jenku and Herman start playing with freestyle training where the horse is totally free - there’s no halter, and no rope! Learning is visceral for horses. To begin with, check in with your horse. You need to start small so that you can gauge just how tuned-in your horse is. Your priority at this stage is to maintain the connection and check that it’s all making sense to him. It should, because you’ve done it all before, and your cues are exactly the same. At first, if your horse decides to leave, it’s OK. He’s testing his boundaries. You can stay in control of the situation by maintaining the direction he’s going in, by controlling his pace, and moving into his blind spot which will encourage him to turn and make eye contact. Herman is huffing and puffing after all that cantering and finally decides that hanging out with Jenku is the best place to find neutral. Tracy can’t believe that it’s her Herman doing these moves. She’s always been impressed by liberty displays but didn’t know where to start. Now they are well on their way to exploring all that freestyle has to offer.
Key points: Don’t be afraid to try! freestyle training, basic liberty, visceral learning, tuned in, connection, no halter, no rope, maintain direction, control pace, blind spot, eye contact.
Winter 04 – Liberty (Advanced Freestyle)
In this film, Jenku is excited to showcase what has been achieved with Herman over the last couple of months. For Jenku, it feels as though Christmas comes twice a year! Not only is Herman off the rope at the walk, trot and canter but he’s also now showing off his lateral bend and vertical flexion. Way to go, Herman! When training your horse, remember to stick to the deal. First, he gives you what you want, and then you give him what he wants. Be patient. It’s important not to suddenly expect three circles from your horse. Start with a few strides, then a quarter circle, then half and then a full circle. It’s amazing to see Herman’s progress. He’s on a nice-sized circle, which enables him to maintain the collection and - with no ropes attached - Herman works through his paces offering a good shoulder in and nice vertical flexion. The only thing keeping him with Jenku is his mind and the relationship they have. For Tracy, this is pure magic. Footage from Spring shows a very different Herman to the one chilling with Jenku on this beautiful winter’s morning. Merry Christmas, Herman, you clever boy.
Key points: Advanced freestyle, liberty, lateral bend, vertical flexion, reward with oxygen, maintaining collection, balance, beautiful relationship, magical.