Click » for our calendar of
scheduled training clinics.
Each horse is an individual and will be treated as such. They
all learn at different levels. - Our goal is to provide you with a safe, fun
and well rounded mount. We take great pride in our past
performance and our accomplishments. We would be happy to
supply you with references.
Training Rates Apply. Please contact trainers directly.
SJP Dressage is a full service horse boarding stable and horse training facility devoted to a natural approach to horse care, natural horsemanship and horse training.
What is Natural Horsemanship?
Natural Horsemanship is a method of teaching and interacting with horses based on trust, respect and communication, in a language the horse can understand, rather than using fear, intimidation and mechanical devices.
This should imply Natural Horsemanship does not use firmness and the establishment of appropriate space and behavioral boundaries for horses. Horses establish a hierarchy and pecking order within the herd, and establish boundaries and claim space around themselves. Horses move other horses with a look, laying their ears back, raising the bridge of their nose in an aggressive way and by biting and kicking.
All of these methods can be used by the Natural Horseman; although we have found it takes a lot of practice to lay our ears back any farther than they already are. Horses do not beat each other with sticks, and Natural Horsemen don’t use sticks to beat horses.
Many people think using communication and trust to get horses to do what we want them to do is new. The truth is, gaining a horses trust is the oldest way of teaching them. When the first man climbed on a horses back, about five thousand years ago, he didn’t have a rope, a corral, a snubbing post, or a chute. All he had was his ability to communicate to the horse, that the horse, a prey animal, was in no danger from the predator climbing on his back. It was only later when we had the tools to physically subdue horses that we began to take the "shortcuts" that led us away from gaining the horses trust before we got on their back.
If we are going to communicate with them it’s easier for us to learn their language than the other way around. The biggest mistake people make in trying to teach horses is, using predator psychology on a prey animal, it just doesn’t work very well. The more we look at things from the horse’s point of view the easier it is for them to understand what we are asking them to learn.
Why Natural Horsemanship Works
Horses that are willing participants make better companions.
Natural horsemanship works because it recognizes that it is easier for a horse to understand what we want them to do if we communicate to them in a language they already understand, rather than attempting to teach them our language. Leslie Desmond was asked if she used verbal commands with horses. Her answer was no, because she traveled around the world and often didn’t know the local language, but since horses throughout the world speak the same language that is the language she uses.
Should you train your horse or teach your horse?
The Nature of the Beast...
The Characteristics of Prey Animals and Predators
|Horses are prey animals...
- Prey animals are eaten by predators.
- They have eyes on the side of their head.
- They have bilateral, not binocular vision, and they don’t measure distance very well
- They are vegetarians; they eat grass and smell like grass
- Prey animals don’t walk in straight lines
- Predators eat prey animals.
- Eyes in the front of their head.
- Predators have binocular vision so they can measure distances, which allows them to gauge the distance to their prey.
- Predators look at prey animals sneak up on them and when they are close enough, they jump up, run the prey animal down and eat them.
- Predators eat meat and smell like meat.
- Predators walk in straight lines.
Humans are predators!
Principals we use to teach horses
- Horses are prey animals and should be communicated with in a language they understand.
- Horses are better taught using prey animal psychology as opposed to predator psychology.
- Horses are motivated by safety, comfort, play and food, mares and stallions are also motivated by the desire to reproduce.
- Horses are herd animals and are natural followers who prefer to follow dependable leaders.
- Horses move from discomfort to comfort.
- Horses are into pressure animals, in other words they naturally push against pressure.
- We teach horses to yield by applying pressure to the horse and releasing the pressure when the horse yields. (a yield is four ounces of pressure or less, more than four ounces is just a submission)
It is important to remember, the horse learns from the release, not from the pressure. If you don’t release promptly and crisply the horse will not know he has done what you have asked.
The secret of the financial success of some horse trainers is that they fix a problem with the horse, but don’t fix the cause of the problem, which is usually the owner, or rider. We cure the problem with the horse and teach the owner or rider how to keep it from reoccurring. A trainer who won't let you watch him or her training your horse is not a trainer you want, either they have some secret that other trainers don't know or they may be using abusive training methods.
Training vs. Teaching
Most often we refer to the process of getting the horse to do what we want as teaching rather than training. It may be a matter of semantics, but training seems to imply doing something to the horse where teaching implies doing something for the horse.
How We Teach
- First and foremost, we need to have a clear understanding with the owner about the specific goals for a horse we are going to teach.
- If the horse has a behavior problem we first make sure that it does not have a physical problem that is causing the undesirable behavior.
What we believe about teaching horses...
The object of natural horsemanship training is to get the horse to do what we want it to do, when we want it to do it. We use respect, communication and trust rather than fear and intimidation to advance that goal for horse and rider and to accomplish all safely!
- We prefer to create a respectful relationship between ourselves and the horse rather than having a relationship where we always dominate and the horse always submits.
- The horse knows all the things we want it to do, we don’t teach it anything new. We only teach horses to do the things it already knows; at the time we want them to do it.
- We believe horses have a highly developed sense of what is fair and what is not.
- The horse should have the opportunity to have his say.
- All of our relationships with people and horses are based on respect. Sometimes you have to give respect in order to get respect, other times you have to demand respect and settle for nothing less.
- If you are being unsuccessful teaching your horse, the first thing to look at is whether the horse understands what you want, next examine whether you are providing leadership and whether there is an appropriate level of respect between you.
- Horses look for reliable leaders.
- Horses live in the moment.
- When you get on a horse, they read your mind and they read your butt. They know whether you are comfortable or uncomfortable, how much you have ridden and who is going to be in charge of the ride that day.
- Horses are natural followers who look for leaders. If we don’t lead, the horse will.
- Your horse won’t know what you want him to do unless you have a clear picture in your mind as to what it is you want.
- Horses are individuals, what works with one may not work on the next; we have to be flexible in our approach. If one technique doesn’t work don’t push it, try something else.
- We try for clear communication with the horse about what we want. If the horse is unclear and makes guesses about what we want we don’t punish him for making a guess that is not what we want. We want to encourage him to use his mind.
- Sometimes you just have to stop and let what you are asking the horse to learn soak in.
- Make sure to praise the horse when he has done what you want him to do.
- Know when to stop.
- There comes a point where the horse has learned all he can learn in that session, find a place where both you and the horse have been successful and stop.
- Horses don’t have the same sense of time we do, the horse doesn’t care if you have an appointment later, or if the pot roast needs to go in the oven at a certain time.
- To successfully teach horses we need to work on horse time not our time.
- Setting overall goals for you and your horse is appropriate. When you set very specific goals for an individual teaching session you are setting yourself, and your horse, up for failure.
- The highest form of horsemanship is when the horse follows a feel, which you create. In other words, the horse follows with his mind, what you have visualized in your mind