How do Horses Learn? Why Task Based Training is the Most Effective Approach

ASR Director of Programs, Emily Abbate, explains the benefits of task based training.

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When it comes to teaching your horse a new skill or trick, we have found that task based training is the best approach.

Most riders understand that horses learn mostly through give and release, but there is more to it than that when it comes to teaching your horse a new skill.

Unlike us humans who have a predator brain, horses have a prey brain, and learn in three parts:


1) Technique

2) Consistency

3) Intensity


To start, through the first step of technique, you should begin by showing your horse the new skill or technique in the simplest way.

Most horses learn a new skill with the right amount of pressure and the right amount of release, between 2 days – 2 weeks.

The next step, consistency, means working with your horse to ensure that the quality of that skill is getting better and staying consistent – meaning no matter if you change the elements, such as yielding both in and out, the horse still applies the technique correctly. Once your horse reaches a point that it is completing the new technique at a consistency of 80%-90%, you can move on to step 3.

During the last step, intensity, it is important to make sure the horse is relaxed before increasing intensity. Otherwise, you will get more tension from your horse.

Increasing intensity includes anything that will make completing the technique more complicated or challenging for your horse, such as shorter diagonals or skipping transitions in between trots. This step is all about testing the new technique for your horse.

Once your horse has passed all three steps of the new skill, making sure you have the technique, the consistency and finally the intensity, you are ready to move on to the next skill!

Written by: Emily Abbate

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