About Contemporary Horsemanship
The goal of Contemporary Horsemanship is to provide quality horse training, riding, and care information to all horse lovers. With an in-depth learning program riders and trainers of all ages can gain new insight to how they handle their horses. Information on problem solving, basic training, groundwork, care, showing, and riding will give you the tools to make you and your horse better partners. Overall, giving you a more enjoyable experience with your horse and allowing you to reach whatever goals you may have. ContemporaryHorsemanship.com brings together the best of classical training and horsemanship. My lessons blend the best methods of many different trainers together on riding and competing. My program of riding and training brings you and your horse success without force or fear. This style of training is one everyone can learn from and take to the barn or show ring.
Hi, my name is Chandra Anton-Watson; I am the creator of Contemporary Horsemanship. I am from Colorado Springs, CO and we relocated to Wilmington, North Carolina. I use effective basic techniques to achieve success with all kinds of horses. I work with any type of horse or training situation including starting horses, problem solving, groundwork, and multiple disciplines of riding.
I was on the back of a horse before I could walk. I started actually riding when I was 9. While I finally got my first horse when I was 11. I rode that horse everywhere from the moment I was out of school until the sunset. As my interest grew, I rode as many different horses as possible. I started taking lessons and started showing english pleasure. From there I moved on to try many different disciplines including barrel racing, eventing, western pleasure, hunter under saddle, hunters, jumpers, and dressage.
I’ve studied horse psychology and behavior extensively. By applying equine psychology to every exercise, starting horses, groundwork, and riding becomes much easier and less stressful on the horse. My training program is based around how the horse thinks. I use positive and negative reinforcement to condition horses to respond to requests while remaining relaxed and attentive in a human environment. I am interested and experienced in so many varieties of horsemanship that I could not pick just one. Good horsemanship is good horsemanship, and as long as you have good basics you can become successful in any discipline. I can help you on your way to achieving your dreams and goals with horses no matter if you are very discipline specific or want to experience all the horse world has to offer.
My intention is to teach riders, owners, and trainers how to interact with horses in a way that corresponds with horse behavior as much as possible. Therefore, reducing confusion for horses and humans as well as the number of accidents caused by conflict behaviors such as bucking, rearing, biting, etc. So many people are given information that is incorrect about riding and training. One trainer had success with one horse with one method, and now he or she is spreading the word on how they did it even though it may not be right for your particular horse. This only leads to confusion and frustration. I myself was one of these riders. When I started out I did not have the knowledge or the funds to acquire the knowledge that I desperately wanted and needed. I had saved for years to buy my little Appaloosa Arabian cross mare but now I was stuck on what to do with her next. I read every book in the library about horses and training. I subscribed to every horse magazine I could. I cleaned ten stalls in exchange my one hour riding lesson. I spent countless hours on the internet watching horse training videos from every trainer imaginable. Through doing all of this, I gained a lot of valuable information but it was a painfully slow process. I found many of the videos to be either overly complicated or so strung out that I would watch a hour long video for about five minutes worth of useful advice. My goal as a trainer and instructor is to allow everyone the opportunity to receive information about horses and training that they will need all in one place, in a simple straight to the point manner, and at an affordable price.
How Horses Think
Horses need four main things in this order. Safety, comfort, food, and stimulation. There is safety in numbers and horses often times don’t want to leave the herd or the barn for this reason. If a horse gets scared their first reaction is to run away toward other horses, the barn, or another place that they perceive as safe. Once the horse feels safe, they want to be comfortable. Comfort to horses is being left alone. The opposite of comfort is the pressure we put on them while riding and handling. Some common pressures we put on horses include rein contact, leg pressure, steering; generally any time we pull or press on our horses. Now I’m not saying that these pressures are bad, because they are not. Pressure is very important when training the horse to do what we want. However, just like it would be to us, putting extended amounts of pressure on a horse is detrimental to their well being. The third thing that horses want/need is food. A horse that does not already feel safe and comfortable will not eat. That’s why withholding feed from a horse then trying to load it in a trailer with hay or grain inside does not work. The fourth and final thing that horses need is stimulation. Once a horse has all of the above they then need stimulation to keep their life interesting. This happens naturally with wild horses as they take up to 10,000 steps per day while grazing. An amount not even close to how many steps the domestic horse will take in a stall or small paddock. Wild horses also have plenty of others to socialize with. Horses are social creatures and do not do well alone.
Predator v.s. Prey
As prey, horses think that everything in the world is out to get them. This is why we need to teach them coping abilities so they can handle life in our modern world. Predators and prey learn, interact, and behave differently from each other. As prey animals horses have a flight or fight instinct. This instinct tells them to run away first and ask questions later. If a horse is scared of something, he is going to run away from whatever scared him until his is at a safe distance away or is at a place that he perceives as safe such as other horses, the barn, his pasture, or even the gate which leads to comfort. If the horse is unable to run away, he will revert to fighting to get away. This is what happens when a horse gets scared when he is tied up, pulls back, feels constrained and tries to fight his way out.
A Balanced Horse
We need our horses to be responsive yet quiet. It’s our job to keep our horses balanced. Adjusting to the situation and to our horse’s reaction. If the horse is worried and wants to move around, desensitize him until he relaxes. If the horse is lazy, sensitize him and get him moving. If he wants to go right, turn left. When the horse anticipates always do the opposite of what he thinks is going to happen. This way you will create a well balanced horse who will move out when you want him to but is still quiet and safe.
Negative and Positive Reinforcement
The most common form of horse training uses negative reinforcement, which is the application of pressure until the horse does a behavior that you want, then you release the pressure which is the horse’s reward and motivation. The horse then learns to avoid this pressure and therefore does what you want. One of the things that horses are motivated by is comfort. When the horse is doing what you want, make him feel comfortable by leaving him alone. When the horse is doing something you don’t want, make him feel uncomfortable by putting pressure on him with your tools. By pressure I mean bumping with the lead rope or tapping the horse with the stick, not by beating him. When he stops doing what you don’t want, make him feel comfortable again. Start gently, increase pressure gradually until you get what you want, then release. Discomfort causes the horse to learn how to deal with its environment. As the horse progresses in his training, you will make him feel uncomfortable less and less.
Positive reinforcement is the addition of something positive to aid in learning. Human examples of this are going to work and getting a paycheck or going to school to get a good grade. The paycheck for a horse is a handful of grain or a treat. Food is another thing that horses are motivated by. Horses trained using only negative reinforcement will only try so hard; usually just enough to get you to stop squeezing with your legs or pulling on the reins. It is amazing how hard horses will try when they know they will get a treat for doing so. It makes my job so much easier when they are actively trying to figure out what I want, and not just avoiding the pressures I put on them. To tell the horse that he is doing what you want, you teach the horse a bridge signal or word. This signal tells the horse that what he is doing right now is what you want and he will be getting a reward for it soon. My bridge signal is a click/clucking sound that I make with my tongue. I click when the horse does something that I like, and then I feed him his treat. This can be done under saddle and on the ground.
By using both negative and positive reinforcement you will create a horse that has a solid foundation of communication, enabling you both to become successful in whatever you choose to do.