Training Theory: Shaping

Shaping is the term used for GRADUALLY lengthening or fine-tuning a response. ie: After your horse reliably backs up one step, start asking for two. When that is an easy task, ask for three etc. etc. Soon he will back clear across an arena with only the lightest pressure from the bit and your calves.

Shaping is a very gradual process. When your horse has accomplished one maneuver or portion of a maneuver with ease, you may ask for the next step. You can fine-tune his performance by baby steps until his routine is a work of art.

Shaping takes patience. If he shows any signs of confusion or poor performance at a new request, retreat to the step before his failure, re-work that step until he is again confident, and then progress again – backtracking if necessary and taking finer and finer pieces slowly but surely. If his confusion is too great, break the new maneuver into even smaller pieces or examine your equipment and timing to be sure he is understanding the cues.

(see Release Training)(see Bit Balance).

Shaping also involves training a maneuver from “situational” to “general”. ie: What he can do in a round pen he frequently cannot do in another environment. Once your horse demonstrates that he knows how to perform some routine in one place or with one rider begin to introduce new places or new handlers until he can perform the same task in many different situations.

Follow the same rules. id: If he is confused or tense when line-lunging outside of the round pen, have patience and accept small progress until he is confident enough to lunge strongly without the fence line.

Horse training and equestrian activities in general can be dangerous. While we try to present relevant and valuable content, under no circumstances does or its members or contributors take any responsibility for the well-being of any horse or person using a method outlined here.

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