Get better at

Communicating with your horse

In this article, we dive a little deeper into Jesse Drent’s positive approach when it comes to training horses, and how you as a rider can improve the communication with your horse using small everyday tools.

Lovisa

Wed 23 Aug - 23

Watching Jesse Drent train his horses is truly a pleasure - and anyone who's seen his social media content knows what we're talking about. Don't we all strive to create that special bond with our horses? In this article, we dive a little deeper into Jesse's positive approach when it comes to training horses, his view on working with horses from the ground, and most importantly: How you as a rider can improve your communication with your horse using small everyday tools. 

 

Have you always been interested in positive reinforcement?

I started riding when I was eight years old at a riding school. My family has always liked animals, but they were never really into horses. When I was twelve, I got my first pony, Andorra, which I still have. At that point, I only knew the way of riding that I learned from the riding school. Which basically were legs for going forward and reins for stopping. 

Everything went quite well with Andorra in the beginning. But suddenly at one point, Andorra was just over it, because I did not listen to her at all. Instead of saying no, she started screaming no. She started bucking, throwing me off, and she was really wild. I got really scared and did not want to ride anymore. Instead, I started to do some things from the ground because I also did not want to sell her. In that way, I really learned that listening and working together with your horse makes such a big difference. When we started to communicate everything changed. We started doing things we could never have done before.

 

Have you learned everything you know through experience?

When I was younger I believe I learned everything through experience. It’s basically the horses that have taught me everything. I tried out different things, some of them worked and some of them didn’t - and those were the most important lessons. I have also had some help from Alizée Froment, she’s very good at liberty dressage. She does everything very correctly, and you can also see that the horses really want to do it. I really look up to her and sometimes we do things together. That is always really fun!

I also learn a lot when I’m giving lessons myself - especially when there are a lot of horses in just one day. Since every horse is different and learns in a different way, I get new experiences every time!

How can it help me as a rider to work with the horse from the ground in a positive way? 

I think that up until some years ago, people just saw trick training as “Oh, the horse does a trick and gets a treat”. But I believe it goes much further than just that. It goes into the whole mindset of the horse, and into your mindset as a rider. If the horse’s mindset opens up they’re not scared to make a mistake and automatically get more willing to try. With a positive mindset as a rider, you become more open to seeing what the horse actually tries to do. 

Working from the ground with your horse improves the timing of your rewarding. It’s often easier to force something from the saddle than it it’s from the ground. When you’re working with the horse from the ground, they have to do it for themselves, otherwise, it will not happen. 

With groundwork, you create a great communication between you and the horse. It strengthens the bond and the relationship, and most importantly: It’s fun to play around since you both enjoy it! 

 

What are your best tips for those who want to strengthen their relationship with their horse?
  • You can teach them small things that are fun for the horse and where they open up at the same time. For example, you can teach your horse to smile, to give a kiss, or to raise the leg. These things are quite easy to learn - but great for communication. It really does not have to be this crazy advanced, big thing.

  • If you have a safe arena, you can always try to have the horse loose for a bit. See if they want to follow you or if you can get their attention from the ground. Focus on keeping it quick and fun in very short sessions!

  • Spend time with your horse! Remember how we used to simply hang out at the stable as kids, simply spending time with and around our horses…?  As we get older life gets in the way, and we have tons of things we have to do. But if you have the possibility, do spend time with your horse before or after the ride. I believe you can learn a lot from just being around them, watching them, and being there with them. It’s great for bonding!