Training With Less Intensity

Would you like your horse to be responsive and solid in his training when he is twenty years old? Do you wonder why a majority of the futurity horses do not go on and make a grade as a “senior horse” after they were pushed to succeed as a “junior horse”? If this is so, you must understand the importance of a soft, Resistance Free® and patient method of training.

As a trainer, buying horses for youth and amateur riders, I can immediately recognize the horses that were rushed and turned into “thirty day wonders”. Whenever these horses feel pressure, they tighten up and tense their neck, shoulders and face in resistance. This, in turn, hollows their back and lengthens their stride. Now you are off to the races!

The best advice I can give you is to relax your intensity and not force the issue. Most of all, be patient. These lessons provide your horse with the opportunity to heal the hurt of a misused cue or confusion through communication on your part. This gives the entire learning process between you and your horse a chance to settle and coverts a difficult, resistant situation into a chance for a fresh, new understanding.

Since horses are unable to relate verbally, the only means of communicating and instilling self-confidence is through this understanding. This communication between horse and handler is crucial for the horse to understand what is being asked of him. I often refer to the old saying, “When the fish are not biting, banging on the water with an oar won’t help”. You cannot keep your horse light and wanting to learn with force. Relieving aggression created through miscommunication or confusion might help you feel better at the moment, but it will all come back to bite you later on.

Mentally parallel training and working with horses is like keeping a bank account. Each quiet, soft cue that is accepted is like making a bank deposit. As well, each quick, forced and misunderstood cut is a bank withdrawal. Remember this when you go for your first big ride or horse show and you want to have a large bank account for emergencies. Don’t let yourself get into a situation with your horse with an overdrawn bank account. It is so important to acknowledge that your horse does not forget and if you have done anything negative with him, he will remember this when you least expect it or want it to happen.

Stiffness and resistance can be trced back to when your horse first began his training. For a clearer understanding, correlate the mind of a young horse to that of a computer. Each and every experience is logged into your horse’s mind and stored whether good or bad. If you have enough favorable experiences being remembered, your chances of your horse’s reactions being positive are greater. Unfortunately, it does not take an abundant of bad experiences for your horse to mentally record the misused or abusive training and therefore react with a resistant attitude.

Remember, for every action you have a reaction. For example, if the action or cue you give your horse in training is accepted and responded to with a relaxed disposition, then a learned response of obedience has been created and set. On the other hand, if you have a horse who misinterprets the cue and responds to confusion with a resistant attitude and adverse movements, you have just trained into your horse a learned response of disobedience and stiffness.

As a young child, I used to help my father break many horses that he brought in wild off the range. Back then, we did not give the horses a choice of whether or not they wanted to be broke and trained. We would put what you call a “running w” on the horse. This contraption took their legs away and dropped them onto the ground when they tried to run away. This entire process took less than an hour. There is never an excuse to treat a horse in this manner, but at that time this method of breaking and training horses was all that we knew. I know that this forced treatment left a horse with bad habits, broken spirit and rebellion. Every time the horse felt the least amount of pressure, he would throw his head nervously and approach with resistance. After this trained beginning, it was inconceivable to continue on and train the horse to accomplish higher, well disciplined movements.


Some of my methods to keep in mind when training your horse:

1. Never let your temper ride your horse

2. Your horse will learn faster and in a positive mode if he is relaxed and has a choice.

3. The learning process is only successful when it is allowed to flow naturally and freely, not forcefully

4. When necessary, take a step down in your training program

5. Make it simpler for your horse to gain confidence and understanding rather that keeping him confused and uptight.

6. When you run into resistance, back off and wait for a few minutes and then proceed slower and clearer with your positive cues.

7. Never quit working with your horse until you are both communicating on a positive responsive, relaxed level. Remember, the next time you work with him, his attitude will be exactly the same as when you quit working with him the last time.


If it were not my years of repairing the adverse effects of the old breaking and training methods, I would not have the appreciation nor the excitement and energy to teach a soft, Resistance Free® method of training and teaching. When the timing is right, learning flows very naturally and freely. To rush or force the process creates resistance and composes fears which take years to ease. Intensity leads to futility and more resistance. Remember the little boy who plants the seed and then nervously digs it up every day to see it it has begun to grow. Always practice patience with yourself and your horse. You want to create a lifetime relationship and this does not happen over night.


May you always ride a good horse………Richard Shrake



  2017 Richard Shrake - Resistance Free Training
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