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Ruah Ranch A new approach to teaching the adult rider!

Reprise: An Old Trick That Still Delivers

I’d like to share with you a training technique that can be applied by riders of any skill level and in virtually any training situation. The use of the reprise was taught to me by Karl Mikolka, Oberbereiter a.D., a truly gifted teacher, trainer and rider.


Reprise is a musical term that refers to the repetition of a previous part of a composition.  In riding it functions in the same fashion and is possibly the most effective and overlooked tool available to riders of all levels and abilities.


Anyone who has spent any time around horses knows how quickly they learn what time breakfast or dinner is served. How many repetitions or “reprises” did it take for your horse to learn the feeding schedule at your barn? The equine brain quite naturally wraps itself around repetitions of any kind - time, place or action - and the thinking rider can use this trait to great advantage.


Much of our work with horses is involved in teaching them how to learn and the reprise is a very effective tool to achieve this. The next time you introduce something new to your horse, try this technique: Giving clear and thoughtful aids, ask the horse to perform the action you want. This first attempt will likely be rather (or very) clumsy and you must reward the horse for the slightest effort on his part (i.e. stop the requesting action by riding straight forward, relaxing the requesting aids, halting, petting and/or verbally praising the horse - whatever is appropriate to the action you’ve requested and your horse’s temperament). Allow a few moments before you request a repetition of the action - this is the horse’s “thinking time.” Now, repeat the request, adjusting your aids based upon the horse’s previous reaction to your request. The horse may respond better this time or worse, but it’s most likely that he will respond differently. Again, reward the slightest effort by ceasing to ask for the action and once more give him a few moments to think about what has just happened. Now ask for a third repetition - it’s quite likely you will detect a glimmer of understanding on your horse’s part as it makes a real effort to interpret your aids and perform the requested task. If this is the case, the best reward you can give your horse is to abandon the exercise you’ve been working on and go on to something different. If, however, the horse still doesn’t get it, continue your repetitions until you’ve achieved two improving repetitions and then abandon the exercise. Begin to work your horse in this manner and you’ll soon notice an improvement in performance and aptitude for learning.


Connie Erickson © 2010, 2011, 2012 Ruah Ranch

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