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 – Whip
He might look like a little sweetie, but Senna - also known as, Incendio, is as fiery as his name. He is tense and highly reactive to pretty much everything. In this film Jenku teaches Senna to relax by desensitising him with a whip. While that might sound counter intuitive, this valuable lesson of pressure on and off will set Senna up for further training success. Stroking your horse’s back with calm, rhythmic strokes might not seem to have anything to do with riding, but it’s all about teaching your horse to find neutral feet and mind. Relaxation is the key to any successful riding. Marking the behaviour you want - and rewarding your horse with food - helps the blood rush from the muscles to the intestines. This, in turn, helps produce a “rest and digest '' state of mind. You will learn to spot and reward the 'smallest try' which will keep your horse motivated to keep trying and learning.
Key points: tense, spooky, desensitise, whip, neutral feet and mind, relaxation, rest and digest, motivated.
Spring 02 – Flag
Whoopa! Whoa! This film starts with an explosion as spooky Senna is making it clear that he is nowhere near 'scatter proof' - yet! This puts his owner, Tracy, at risk when she’s on his back as he tends to overreact and explode like this when confronted with something new. In this lesson Jenku introduces Senna to the flag – a full sensory overload for a reactive horse. Not only is it stimulating visually but also physically and aurally. The horse needs to try and make sense of it all and Jenku teaches Senna to find a neutral place of relaxation and calm. Watch as Jenku breaks down the flag introduction into manageable chunks to set Senna up for success. Unfortunately, it’s easy to set your horse up to fail and then blame him for it. It is much better to be proactive rather than reactive. By learning this process, success is simple. In the next film, Jenku “rattles” Senna’s cage.
Key points: explode, flag, sensory overload, reactive, neutral place of relaxation, set up for success.
Spring 03 – Rattle
Using a rattle in training is a bit unconventional, but it achieves two things. First, it desensitises your horse to unusual sounds, and it trains him that he can make the noise stop which is very empowering for a skittish horse. In this film, Jenku helps the very sensitive Senna learn that he can control what happens around him. When Jenku shakes the rattle, Senna’s first response is to back away or explode. Watch as the horse runs through a series of multiple-choice questions while Jenku shakes the rattle. Should I look to the left, should I flick my ears, should I kick out with my hind legs, Senna asks? The rattle only stops when Senna shows signs of relaxation. Keeping the pressure on - until you get the desired behaviour - is a very useful training tool. The more you do these types of exercises, the more your horse will feel like a victor rather than a victim.
Key points: rattle, desensitise, unusual sounds, sensitive, explode, multiple choice questions, relaxation, pressure, desired behaviour, victor not a victim.
Spring 04 – Plastic Bag
For sensitive Senna, the tiniest bit of plastic is terrifying. His owner, Tracy, has spent hours trying to get him close to a plastic bag but without success. In this film, Jenku sets Senna up for success by timing the pressure on and release so that in the end Senna feels as though he’s in control of the scary bag. Surprisingly, at the end he learns to relax rather than explode. Because horses are flight animals, they are acutely aware of other animals' body language, including us! In this film you will learn about the ‘hungry lion’ and the ‘ lazy lion’, switching your energy on and off and how horses can do the same in the game, “Mirror Me”. Starting with the plastic bag on the end of a stick, Jenku puts the pressure on and then takes it off immediately Senna softens. Not only is this great for Senna as he doesn’t have to deal with adrenaline bursts, but it’s brilliant for Tracy as well. After all, nobody likes riding a horse that feels as though he’s walking on eggshells!
Key points: set up for success, pressure and release, control, body language, hungry lion, lazy lion, mirror me, adrenaline.
In this Summer Season we can already see huge improvement. Follow each step and we will soon be in 'full bloom'!
Summer 01 - Umbrella
Summer in England often means unexpected rain and, while Tracy might not want to ride with an umbrella, she’s bound to come across them at shows. For super-sensitive Senna, umbrellas can be frightening. In this film, Jenku introduces Senna to an umbrella in a rolled-up form. Because of the work done in the Spring season, he quickly finds ‘neutral feet and mind’. Jenku then up’s the criteria and starts opening it. Now the horse must deal with multiple stimuli. Horses think in pictures and shapes and when Jenku picks up the umbrella, Senna hits flight mode – blood rushes to his muscles, his back contracts, his head is raised, and his pupils dilate. If he needs to run for his life, he is more than ready! All the training that Tracy has done with him is paying off, however, and as soon as he starts softening the pressure is removed. Teaching your horse to find calm is essential for his well-being and your safety. Before you know it, Senna will be doing a musical kur to Singing in the Rain – with umbrellas!
Key points: neutral feet and mind, introducing multiple stimuli, learning how horses think in pictures, signs of flight mode.
Summer 02 - Flag Part 2
Scatterproofing a young horse is very important; and it’s much better to train proactively rather than reactively. In this film, Senna meets up with the flag again and this time it’s a lot less scary! Jenku breaks this exercise into four easy steps. Step 1 is visual where the horse is encouraged to look at the exciting and interesting object you’re holding. Step 2 is tactile, and the horse is asked to touch the object. Step 3 introduces audio and visual stimulus where you can see Senna making a choice to override his desire to freak out. Step 4 involves upping the criteria and waving the flag overhead. Considering that Tracy hasn’t had much time to practise with Senna because she’s been busy with competitions, he has done brilliantly to remember to lower his head and stay calm. Last time they worked on this was eight weeks ago. This reinforces the fact that any learning that happens when the horse is relaxed will be retained and goes into their long-term memory.
Key points: training proactively rather than reactively, introducing multiple stimuli , training your horse to make a conscious choice, signs of relaxation, horse psychology and long-term memory.
Summer 03 - Plastic Bag Part 2
In this film, Senna revisits the ‘dreaded plastic bag’... yikes! The bag is terrifying for him and his first instinct is to attack it – much as he would a threatening animal in the wild. In the past, Tracy and Senna have struggled with the bag for hours without success. He’s bound to remember how stressful that was - Tracy certainly does! Jenku emphasises that recognising the smallest try - whether it’s an ear cocked in the bag’s direction or looking at the bag - and taking the pressure off, will help the horse to be more confident about his choice to lower his head. As Jenku explains, your focus is important. Are you focusing on what the horse is doing right or what he is doing wrong? It’s all about pattern recognition for the horse. He quickly learns that every time you touch him, if he lowers his nose to the ground, you’ll take the pressure off by taking the bag away AND you’ll reward him. As Tracy points out, this method teaches him the process of making the right decision about the bag, rather than forcing him to touch the bag.
Key points: safety precautions, recognising and rewarding the smallest try, pattern recognition, pressure and release, training the process of making the right decision.
Summer 04 - Tarpaulin
Who would have thought that Senna would be able to find neutral on top of a scrunchy, noisy tarpaulin? Walking over tarpaulins, or through ditches and streams can be unnerving for a spooky horse. But, breaking it down into incremental bite-size chunks will calm your horse’s nervous system and make learning rewarding instead of terrifying. Getting your horse to walk over a tarpaulin can be broken down into six steps. These steps set your horse up for success as you let your horse figure out what to do. Senna starts out not wanting to go anywhere near the tarp but ends up standing on it without a care in the world. This is an excellent lesson for show jumpers who want their horses to clear the water jumps, or dressage riders struggling to get their horse passed a judge’s box. Giving your horse time to figure out half an answer for himself, is much better than you providing him with the whole answer.
Key points: application for various spooky obstacles and situations eg. water jumps, judge’s box, incremental training, calming the horse’s nervous system, building confidence.
Our lessons are starting to 'bear fruit' in this Autumn Season, as more complex movements are beginning to take shape.
Autumn 01 - Progressing with Props
Senna’s eyes are about to pop out of their sockets! A plastic bag is scary enough, but now there’s a fluffy feather duster to contend with. Like Senna, you might be wondering what a feather duster has to do with good horse training. Because Senna’s preservation instinct is so strong and he’s ready to flee at the sight of anything vaguely scary, it’s important to remind him that neutral mind and feet are what we’re after. Senna needs to realise that when he stands still, the scary object goes away, but that if he keeps rushing backwards or kicking out, the object remains at his side. In this film, Jenku makes ''advance and retreat'' look simple, but his timing needs to be spot on. As soon as Senna softens – no matter how subtly – Jenku removes the pressure. By rewarding the ''smallest try'', this boosts Senna’s confidence in his ability to control his environment. A horse can only learn if he’s in the parasympathetic, or rest and digest, state. For this reason, you need to train calmness into your horse otherwise you’ll never be able to achieve the goals you’ve carved out for yourself.
Key points: plastic bag, feather duster, preservation instinct, flight mode, neutral feet and mind, advance and retreat, pressure and release, three agreements, parasympathetic state.
Autumn 02 - Neutral Mat
Who knew that a rubber car mat could be such a powerful training tool? For a sensitive horse like Senna, a neutral place where he can relax is very important. In this film, Jenku trains Senna to find neutral on the car mat by setting up boundaries. At first when Senna sees the mat, he backs away but Jenku blocks him and rewards him when he takes a step towards it. Senna soon learns that he can’t go sideways, or backwards but that through a process of elimination if he steps on the mat, he will be clicked and rewarded. The next part of the exercise is to use the mat to teach Senna to find neutral at the mounting block. In Senna’s mind, he knows that the mat is neutral and stands on it to be rewarded. If he’s suspicious of the mounting block to begin with, these worries soon fall away as he is rewarded for standing quietly on the mat. Once up on the block, Jenku is able to control Senna’s body by using a hind quarter yield until he’s standing quietly parallel to the mounting block. You can use the mat in so many situations to help calm your horse’s nerves - at competitions, on the horsebox ramp to encourage easy boxing, or near horse-eating arena mirrors.
Key points: rubber car mat, powerful training tool, neutral place, relaxation, hind quarter yield, mounting block, calmness.
Autumn 03 - Overhead Props
In this film, Mary Poppins meets up with 600kgs of horse power and a small mistake ends up being a big test for Senna. Bringing out lots of props to play with isn’t just about having fun with your horse. It’s about training him to be bombproof and keep you safe, no matter what the situation. As Jenku says, ‘you want to be on the ground wishing you were on your horse, rather than on your horse wishing you were on the ground’. For a competition horse like Senna, flags, hazard tape, umbrellas and sound systems are going to be a part of his world, so the sooner he learns to deal with them, the better. Because Senna is very suspicious by nature, it’s always better to start off with a prop he is familiar with, recap what he’s learnt, and reinforce the default behaviour which is to lower his head and find neutral mind and feet. All cool? Great, now you’re ready to hop up onto the mounting block and try waving it overhead. When Jenku pushes the umbrella button by mistake, Senna handles it really well. He didn’t overreact – which is exactly what you want. Well done, Senna. You handled this like a pro.
Key points: recap on previous props, umbrella, flag, feather duster, bombproofing, competition simulation, operant conditioning, neutral feet and mind.
Autumn 04 - Between Props
In this film Jenku gets friendly with a flamingo and Senna learns to find neutral between some very challenging props! Because horses eyes are on the side of their heads, they are lateral thinkers. In this film, Jenku teaches us why this is so important to understand when training your horse. Senna understands from a previous film that a rubber car mat is his ‘happy’ place. By placing the mat on the ground between tents, tubes, and other brightly-coloured objects that would usually push all his panic buttons, instead he quickly learns to find ‘neutral’. The one constant in your horse’s life is you, so if you are fair and consistent, he’ll be more inclined to trust you and follow your lead. The aim of this, and all the other exercises, is to help your horse feel confident and in control of his environment rather than a victim. Tracy is happy to observe that even though the props get scarier as the lesson progresses (there’s even a crocodile!), Senna is quicker to find neutral each time. In fact, he’s so happy on the mat that Jenku has to encourage him to leave it!
Key points: placing mat between props, tents, tubes, brightly-coloured inflatables, lateral thinkers, prey animals, allow time to explore, developing mentally, calmness, consistent fair leader, trust, feeling in control of environment.
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 – Neutral Under Saddle
Getting on a tense young horse requires nerves of steel. Senna is always firing on all cylinders so the goal is to get him soft and relaxed so that he can work through his whole body. Asking him to release his jaw is the first step to relaxation and eventually this will transfer to his neck and down his back. Jenku lifts the bit gently so that there is pressure on the mouth corners. The moment he releases his jaw he clicks and rewards. Once he is doing this consistently, Jenku transfers the pressure to Tracy. She lifts her hands to create upward pressure on Senna’s mouth and he stretches down. Tracy is well-aware that too much pressure makes Senna claustrophobic and that’s when he panics. Trying to control this volatile energy is not easy! When he is in a tizzy, she must remember what Jenku has taught her; to use one rein for control to get his hind quarters to yield so that he can move sideways until he finds the release he’s looking for. By the end of the session, wild-eyed Senna has dopey eyes and his body is heavy and relaxed. Dopamine has flooded his system and he’s learned how to relax. His engine is purring, instead of roaring!
Key points: tension, parasympathetic state, back muscles contracted, relaxation, jaw release, targeting belt buckle, one rein for control, two reins for collection, dopamine
Winter 02 – Neutral with Flag
Cooling your horse’s nervous system will make riding better for you - and him. In this film Senna discovers that finding neutral next to Tracy is the best place to be. Remember the rubber mat from previously? So does Senna! He quickly ‘finds neutral’ on the mat so we start overlaying other cues. Can Senna stand on the mat and stretch down when you take up the rein? The more he answers “Yes, I can,” the more he relaxes. While lots of repetition might not be exciting for the rider, it’s really important for Senna to feel that he is making a choice for himself rather than being forced or manipulated into position. Horses are often coerced or manipulated into positions but if you were to ask them what they’ve learned he would say, “I don’t know but they pushed and pulled me a lot and I’m glad the lesson is over.” Instead, giving him the choice, he’s left with the feeling that being next to Tracy is the best place to be. Now the BIG test is to see if Senna can maintain neutral feet and mind when Jenku waves a flag around him. Awesome! Senna doesn’t flinch. Tracy is thrilled that the fiery Incendio is cooling down.
Key points: nervous system, finding neutral, invisible box, rubber mat, overlaying, relaxation, mounting block, choice rather than force, flag.
Winter 03 – Neutral Between Props
Senna is now a Zen master. He’s found his sweet spot on the rubber mat and in this film we take it to the next level. Jenku starts by putting out two props at least 5 metres apart so that there is ample space to go forward between the props. If Jenku makes the gap too small and Senna slams on brakes and run backwards, then he hasn’t been set up to succeed. The mat in between the props is a visual anchor. Tracy starts by walking up to the mat where Senna is happy to stand and stretch down. Feeding him from the saddle increases his flexibility which, in turn, increases his relaxation. The next step is to gradually decrease the gap. With the mat as a mental anchor, the props are almost unnoticed! In the past, an arena full of props would have been overwhelming for him and although Senna has a wobbly moment meeting the crocodile (who can blame him?), Tracy is able to gain control using one rein and he quickly finds neutral again. For Tracy, this is a huge breakthrough. After some hairy moments on Senna’s back, he finally seems to be trusting her. Most riders on skittish horse know what a huge step this is. Take a bow, Tracy and Senna.
Key points: Zen master, rubber mat, scary props, confidence, visual anchor, flexibility, relaxation, gaining control using one rein, disengaging hind quarters.
Winter 04 – Neutral at Competition
Everything we do is about finding real-life applications, otherwise it’s just ‘a bunch of tricks’. In this film we set up a simulation at home, which we can overlay at a show or in any stressful situation. If your horse knows the buttons, all you need to do is push them. Tracy and Senna put this to the test at the Regional Dressage Championships where the horses and riders are tense, and the stakes are high. Senna knows how to 'find neutral' when targeting a cone at home, so at the show Tracy uses this training and targets the arena letters to 'find neutral'. This helps Senna relax and Tracy is able to block out background distractions. In these tense situations, it’s important to remember your biomechanics. Your horse’s poll can’t be up and flexed to the side at the same time, so if he’s treading on eggshells, ask for a lateral bend and release as soon as he drops his poll. Shoulder in on four tracks is another good tool as it will loosen his lower back behind the saddle. Even though Senna finds the competition venue very frightening, by overlaying the simulation learned at home he soon soon finds neutral feet and neutral mind. Good job, Senna!
Key points: real-life application, competition venue, overlaying, targeting a cone, arena letters, finding neutral, relaxation, biomechanics, loosen lower back, rewarding the smallest try.