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Here I will try to tell a little about my thoughts on horse training and the tools I use.


There are many different things we can do when training our horses, and for me there are two things in particular that are very important. The first is that it should be fun to train a horse. Regardless of what we do, the training should bring joy to both horse and human. If it doesn't, the point of an expensive and time-consuming hobby is gone. The other important point for me is that the training should not harm the horse, and preferably have a positive effect on the horse's mental and physical health. Being able to see that the horse's body works better during the training session is very rewarding. The training should build both the horse's body and self-confidence.


Academic Equestrian Art

Academic riding is a form of training where you work the horse both from the ground and from the back. All the time we work with the same thing, that the horse should be relaxed and soft, and move in a way that does not cause injuries. We want the horse to step under the center of gravity and carry more of the weight on the hind legs. In academia, you work with the horses in many different positions. We have field work where we walk in front of the horse, manual work where we walk alongside, lunging and riding. There is a focus on the correct movement pattern throughout. In addition to the horse's physical condition, there is also a great focus on the psychological. The horse must feel that it has mastered the training, and it is the rider's responsibility to plan the sessions in such a way that the horse gets the tasks done.


It is Bent Branderup who founded the riding style Akademisk Ridekunst, and started the job of interpreting old texts and finding forgotten knowledge. Academic equestrian art has been developed through studies of texts and images from several old equestrian masters. Today, academic equestrianism has developed into a large environment. Bent brings together many very skilled instructors who meet regularly to exchange experiences and discuss current topics. After the meeting, they go home to test ideas and new knowledge on their own horses and students, before they  meet again for new discussion and exchange of experiences. This leads to a dynamic and continuous development of knowledge which is constantly developing the academic environment - and which is very exciting.


In addition to the positive effect on the horse's health, it is the focus on details in academic riding that I appreciate. The training is not only about how, but also why. All the exercises we do with the horse have a purpose. Understanding the purpose makes it easier to perform the exercises correctly. They become a circle; to do the exercises correctly you have to understand why you do them, and to understand why you do the exercises you often have to have done them first. Gradually in the process you understand more and more important details that make some things easier, and others more difficult. As my grandfather used to say: "the more you know, the more you find out that you don't know". The positive thing about this is that it makes it very important to work on appreciating what you have right now. It will never be perfect anyway, but it's all the little bits along the way that make the work so rewarding and exciting.


Training as part of treatment and treatment as part of training


I often use treatment in the training and training in the treatment as they complement and strengthen each other in an effective and exciting way.  Treating certain areas directly can often be less painful than working on the same areas in motion. Asking the horse to bend down when it hurts a lot and is difficult, easily becomes negative. The same applies to asking the rider to lower a shoulder that is raised due to tense muscles, then it is more constructive to do something with the tense muscles.

It is also exciting to work the other way around. For example, there is some tension in my back that I have experienced as easier to improve with movement than with treatment. I am constantly learning new ways in which, during training, I can work with the same things as I do in a massage treatment.  The combination of treatment and training is a very interesting area.


In my master's thesis, I found that the horses mirrored the human's physical movements in almost 70% of the tests. The individual variations were large and they were also related to the amount of positive social behavior the horse showed towards humans. We know from other animals and humans that we mirror those we like and like those who mirror us. The use of mirroring can therefore be a good tool to improve the relationship with the horse. It is also both fun and effective to use games to learn exercises on the ground.  

Body language

Horses communicate with body language. Position, direction and energy show what the horse intends to do. When we work with the horse, it is important that we can both read their body language, and also know how to use our own body language as best as possible. If we know how to do it, it is possible to steer the horse around in circles, in figures of eight, and vary between different gaits. It is very fun to work with the horses loose, but it is equally important to know how to use our body language in other handling from the ground. A good number of problems in ground handling and lunging stem from us asking the horse for something we are not aware we are asking for. If the learned signals we use and the body language contradict each other, it will be difficult for the horse to do what we ask. Body language is actually so strong that it becomes uncomfortable to go against it. For example, stubbornness or explosions in lunging often result from the learned signals we use and body language contradicting each other. Becoming aware and correcting your own body language is therefore often a very effective step in improving communication with the horse. 

Ethology, natural behavior and behavioral needs

What do the horses spend their time doing in the feral state, what behavioral needs do they have and what behavioral patterns are natural for them? Often what we experience as a behavior problem will not necessarily be wrong on the horse's part. It may be natural behaviour, but the environment and the situation we have put them in means that the behavior causes problems. Behavioral needs are also an important point. If the environment we offer the horses does not satisfy their behavioral needs, the probability is high that we will have behavioral problems and challenges in handling them. 

Learning theory 

This is where operant and classical conditioning come into play. Operant conditioning concerns what motivates the behavior and what punishes it - simply what consequences the behavior we want to change has. Classical conditioning is about learning reflexes and non-will-controlled learning, and is particularly relevant, for example, in horses with fear and anxiety.


"Behavior is an outward expression of an underlying emotional state" Sara Heat 

Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp has found 7 basic emotional systems that appear to be common in mammals - RAGE, FEAR, PANIC, FRUSTRATION, SEEKING, CARE and PLAY. When I work based on emotion theory, the analysis involves finding out which emotional systems are active, why and what we can do to influence them. By changing the emotional state of the horse, we also often change the unwanted behaviour.



In our usual handling of the horses, there are many things that must work. Everything from lying down, lifting legs, standing still and waiting, being loaded onto a trailer. These are everyday things for many, but can also be a major source of frustration. All horses can be well-behaved and easy to handle, but it requires a good basic job of teaching them how we want them to behave. It is important that we are clear and unambiguous, because if the horses do not know what the desired behavior is, they will not be able to give us the response we want either



If we manage to make training a game, anything is possible and everything is fun! It is therefore an important goal for me to see how we can angle the training so that from the horse's point of view it becomes a game and not a job. What is fun for different horses varies, so here it is important to get to know the individual. In some situations, the change the horse undergoes when it begins to see the training as a game is the big breakthrough. When I work with horses that are afraid of something, I try to set up the training so that the encounter with the scary situation becomes a breeze. When the horses begin to see facing slightly scary situations as part of the game, the training will go much faster. When the reaction to new potentially scary things becomes "Oh, that's part of the touch game?" changes the horse from scared to playful. Even if the object you work with is new, the situation is familiar, and the new object becomes only part of a familiar situation.


Play can also be used in regular training, both in general and as a reward. If you get exercises that the horse finds so fun that they work as reinforcement, we can use them to reward other exercises. If the exercises that act as rewards have different energy levels, we will also be able to adapt the choice of reward to the training. If we are working with something where we need to calm the horse down, we can use a calm reward. If we are working with something where it is an advantage to "wake up" the horse between exercises, we can use a reward with a lot of energy.




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