Horse Training; Johnny, Basic Utilities


The above videos are simple but fairly precise exercises that probably any trained saddle horse should be able to accomplish. My neighbor hosts a saddle horse utility contest every year in which these exercises and others are required and then graded as to how well each horse performs.  I have included these exercises into my basic level horse training.  They are specific movements that unless we are in a contest we may never be required to do them, but the movements and control each exercise requires are handy and if the training has been accomplished you will find yourself using these cues and movements in lots of different ways many times in the course of a day of riding.

Another value to these utilities is that it forces the rider to be specific with the cues, it maybe that the horse can do it just fine, but the rider fails to communicate.   This is a test for both the horse and rider. It is a good thing to find out who is at fault and not just assume the horse is screwing up.  I challenge you–get on your horse and give these utilities a try.  If the effort seems awkward, work on it. The work will be a value for both you and your horse.

I started introducing Johnny to these utilities almost within the first week of training, but he wasn’t doing them consistently until almost six weeks and now at two months he is doing them fairly proficiently.  The introductions to these simple exercises are mildly stressful for the colt in two ways.  First they are worried about the objects used for the exercise.  Second they do not understand our cues. Thirdly if they do understand the cues they short out and forget them when they are near the object used for the lesson.

After I have done an exercise a few times with some success it is easy to become impatient when things go wrong by somehow believing that the colt is rebellious and ought to know these things, but it is important to not lock wills and try to force the thing to happen.   That will add more fear and take more time so I remember to introduce the exercises slowly in small increments. For sure the saying is true with horse training; “More haste, less speed”.

Johnny has a good foundation. He will be plenty good for light trail riding and a fairly accomplished rider.  Not that he would be dangerous or difficult, but a novice rider might reverse some of the training he has accomplished.  Next spring he can begin training for his career as a cutting horse, dressage, endurance horse or whatever his owner would like to try, but he won’t forget these basic utilities.


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