That Forward Feeling
The Horsemanship of Elise Marie Weber

Communicate clearly and find the connection you have always wanted

Training The Horse
 Horses are born near perfect, it is the human that has work to do. Work with the horse begins on the ground. It could begin in a number of ways but the first time I see a horse for training I like to approach them in the field or stall and see what the initial reaction is. Some horses are curious. Some horses are insecure. Some horses don't give a flip. These reactions all give me important information about the horse I am working with. I watch them interact in the field; is this the horse that is the pushy one of the herd or is it easy going? If they roll; do they stay down for long and do they roll on both sides? What do they usually do when they get up? All of these tiny things provide me with valuable information before I even touch the horse. To assess the personality and physical capabilities in a horse accurately is important because you have to learn how to work with the horse's strengths and weaknesses.

1. We have to stop telling horses that they are doing things "wrong"
There are 4 different ways of training any animal using Operant Conditioning. Horses have traditionally been trained using Negative Reinforcement and Positive Punishment. While these techniques are the most widespread and may yield temporary results, the results are just that; temporary. Not only that but because the behavior you have taught is fear motivated (even if its not "harsh" to you it may still be fear motivated by your horse) anytime the horse encounters something it fears more than you, you will be at risk of losing control. If you use Positive reinforcement the animal will trust you and take direction from you in moments of distress.

+R or Positive Reinforcement- adding something positive; treats, "good girl", a caress, stretching, a hack outdoors, ending the session.
-R or Negative Reinforcement- Taking away something "bad"; removing pressure as a "reward".
-P or Negative Punishment- taking something away; removing yourself from the, situation (assuming your horse likes you).
+P or Positive Punishment- adding something unpleasant. A "correction".

We have to stop telling our horses they are doing things wrong. They need confidence from us not criticism.

On my Links page you will find a few links to videos supporting the science behind +R training.

2. The horse will tell me how to train it
Every horse is different and has a story to tell. Their behavior, the way they move, the way they respond to touch; all of these are important. By starting on the ground and working my way into the saddle I lend many advantages to the training process. All too often we begin a new relationship with a trained horse by getting on it's back; right where a predator would cling to him and rip him to shreds. Is that really how you want to get to know someone new? By starting on the ground I can build and foundation of communication and trust before mounting up. Also, I have the advantage of being able to visually process everything about the horse; something we are robbed of in the saddle. This brings me to a great big ethical  issue that I deal with daily; consent. My recent experiences with +R have taught me that if the horse is a willing  he is a more reliable partner. I am constantly asking myself, "is this the right thing to do for this horse on this day at this moment". When you start out on the ground and you set your horse up for success everything else tends to fall into place and all you need to do is be a humble and honest student of the horse.
 
3. Dominance theory no longer lives here
I just don't buy it anymore. Your telling me that one horse that is a total bully controls the rest of the herd? Not a chance! Recent studies show that the "leader" in the herd is often the oldest mare in the group. You only get to be a leader if you are trusted! With this new knowledge I am making changes! Recent studies show that horses view things they fear in their left eye. My theory is that this is because of the operation of the left/right brain and that asymmetry in horses is caused by fear based training.
The Rider
My teaching style includes a lot of theory. If you want to know the "why" and "how" of Dressage and horses in general, you have come to the right place. I am aware that everyone learns differently and will try different approaches until something works. My preference is that each rider develops an independent seat on the longeline and continue occasional longing to keep fit. The benefits of doing this work so that you are able to walk, trot, and canter without holding on or using stirrups are endless. Then can you hope to achieve a good quality communication with the horse. It sounds difficult and scary right? It certainly is not easy but it is rewarding! The task is rooted in mental discipline, overcoming doubt, balance, equilibrium, and core strength. The process of becoming a better horseperson not only allows you to partner with the horse but helps you find your true self. I am blessed to have had some very dedicated students in my life.