Klaus Hempflings’ second book What Horses’ Reveal, has been a complex tome to digest. It’s been 6 years since it’s U.S. release and I’m still digesting…
Most of the book describes the “personality types” that he gives to horses however, what I wanted to address in this post is the chapter: How to Shape Horses’ Correctly (p. 165). Hempflings’ premise is that the work should be approached in a series of sequences based upon it’s personality.
My half-Arabian, Beautiful Boy, was a personality combination of the Prince (p. 114) and the Gypsy (p. 106), making him difficult to engage (too much emotional pressure and he became frightened); difficult to communicate and bond with; and his instinctual panic set us back many lessons.
I started having better success when I started sequencing our workouts.
For example, a typical session might begin with liberty work in a small arena – where he could roll at will, trot about, and I would wait until he came to me to engage in “conversation.”
Liberty and letting HIM engage me, helped him develop a trust that he could make decisions in our relationship at his own pace – ignoring humans was part of his personalities, and I had a historical account from his previous owner of 13 years that backed up his “aloof” character.
After Liberty we did some in-hand work, usually leaving this outdoor arena and working in another area. In-hand work was using clicker training and body movements (imitate me) as well as a whip to aid direction through pointing, parallel guiding and light touch.
BBoy was beautiful at in-hand work and I wish I had some video of this as I was amazed at how easily he did all sorts of movements with effortless grace.
Sequencing has come back into play with LadyZ.
If I followed the route of a traditional training, our sessions would start with lunging or roundpen work, followed by riding and then she would be put away. However, I don’t find this the best use of my time working her or in how she learns.
Let’s look at a typical sequence I might do with her:
1.) Get her and BigT from their pastures and let them graze in the commons. During this time, I assemble my tack, equipment, etc… and would probably free-groom the horses, flyspray them and watch their behavior. How are they feeling today? Is she energetic or feeling laid back? Is she curious about me or ignoring me?
2.) In the Roundpen we start off with some Liberty warmup of walk and trot voice commands. How is she responding? Usually this type of work energizes her and she starts to engage more with me.
I layer the high energy work of walk-trot-canter with slower work where she comes up to the mounting block (lead by a carrot!) and then stands. I’m starting to find that she is more calm at the mounting block AFTER a bout of high energy work then she would be if I had immediately demanded standing still at the mounting block.
3.) After this work, I let her back to the commons to graze, while I groom or work BigT.
4.) After his work, I return to LadyZ and I get her tacked up and lunge her walk and trot in the large arena.
A change in this plan, might be a hiking companion walk in the beginning to engage her and work off any boisterous energy with traveling through a new environment.
Slower and laid back horses might need wake up work, energizing in the beginning.
Horses that are disenagaged from people involvement, may need something like clicker training, liberty work or chasing a ball to connect them to the human handler.
Horses that are high energy may need a burn off exercise but then moved to something that requires a lot of concentration and focus (moving through poles, over a trail bridge etc…).
It’s interesting to think of not only sequencing but layering the work that I want the horse to learn in a manner that keeps them interested, engaged and eager to do it all over again.
What I feel is the highest compliments that the horses give me: they meet me at the gate; they follow me, even tackless and in an open area; after working with me, they come back and ask for more… being that I have no horses for sale, don’t do training for others, and no longer teach riding lessons, I have the time to devote to giving them training in this manner.
I am very thankful for it.