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Keeping your horse training balanced

It’s important to keep a balance between principle and purpose in your horse’s training process. Mindlessly repeating a technique without having a purpose causes your horse to get bored, dull and mentally/emotionally disconnected. It’s like teaching a first grade child the same thing every year until the 6th grade and expecting them to feel enthusiastic about it. When you teach your horse something new there are two important components to remember:



  1. Principle: to develop the horse’s understanding of how to do something, which is the development of communication through language and techniques. An example of this would be, teaching your horse to turn and move its forequarters.
  1. Purpose: to develop the horse’s understanding of why to do something, which is putting the communication and techniques into practice to give them meaning. An example of this would be, once you have taught your horse to turn and move its forequarters, you can give it purpose by turning your horse through bending poles.



Many of the competitive disciplines are either purpose based or principle based. Here is a categorised list of which discipline fits where:

Principle based disciplines:

Dressage, Reining, Western Pleasure, Western Dressage, Hacking, Halter showing.

Purpose based disciplines:

Show Jumping, Eventing, Cutting, Camp drafting, Reined Cow Horse, Team Penning, Roping, Barrel Racing, Competitive Trail Rides, Polo, Polo Cross, Trail riding.


It’s very common for people to create imbalanced horses purely because they focus just on one riding activity or discipline. If you only trail ride your horse (purpose based activity/discipline) then there might be a tendency for the communication between you and your horse to. So, to bring balance to your trail riding you could spend some time developing and improving your communication in an arena or even while on the trail, which would result in more confidence and connection on the trail. If you only ride your horse in an arena and do reining or dressage (principle based activities/disciplines) then your horse might get bored or stagnant, because of the lack of purpose based activities. So, to bring balance to your arena work you could take your horse on some trail rides after your arena work. This would allow your horse to be more enthusiastic, focused and relaxed in its arena work.


Just as it’s important for you to enjoy your work and like what you do, the same can be said for your horse. Your horse needs to enjoy the work you do with it and that can only happen when you work with your horse in a balanced fashion. A simple and effective way to keep your horse balanced is to maintain a healthy balance between the development of training principles and giving them a purpose.

We offer a variety of clinics, which incorporate principle and purpose based activities. Our up coming Foundation for Collection clinic is more principle based, while our Safety & Confidence on Trail Rides or the Confidence with Obstacles for adults or for youth clinics are more purpose based.

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