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Horse Training Tips and Techniques, Helpful Hints for Health Care;
Plus Business Advice on Making Your Career With Horses a Financial Success

By Don Blazer

          Cross-training works for most athletes, and it works especially well for horses when you are seeking a slower, more relaxed cadence and more collection.

          No matter what discipline, or what style (western or English), try working your horse over some ground poles, back-throughs or serpentines.

          Start with one ground pole and walk over it a few times until your horse understands he isn’t to stop, increase his cadence or try to jump the pole. Once the horse is very relaxed about one pole (never discipline him for hitting the pole) you can add several more.  For walk-overs the poles should be 2 feet apart.  (To learn more about working Trail Obstacles, enroll in
Train a Trail Horse taught by world champion trainer Cathy Hanson. (

          Poles teach the horse to be careful with his feet and make slight adjustments to his stride.  As soon as the horse can work several poles with grace and calm, you’ll notice a very improved rhythm to his gait.  Don’t do trot-overs until the horse is very comfortable with walk-overs.  (Trot overs must be 3 to 3.6 feet apart)

          Back-throughs teach patience and improve your control of his hip.  Take plenty of time when working an “L”….move a step or two and then stop and wait.  Let the horse stand for a minute or several minutes, and then move a couple of more steps.  Once the horse is willing to wait in his back-throughs, he’ll be a softer horse while moving forward.

          Serpentines will help with control and guidance.  Begin with just three turns.  Your horse should be listening to both your leg and rein cues as he moves around the markers.  Master the serpentines at the walk, and then begin trotting the turns.  

          Do not let your horse increase speed.  Any increase in speed should be met with a “stop” cue.   Teach the horse to wait, and then move on.

          Ten or 15 minutes of “cross-training” can really improve your horse’s softness and rhythm during your regular training session. 

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