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Fundamental Fridays: Focus-in, Focus-on

Fundamental: Focus-in, Focus-on

The very first thing I teach my horses to do is to focus in and focus on me. This focus-in, focus-on has many different names throughout horsemanship and training circles. Focus-in, focus-on looks a little different at each stage of training from the first interactions of a horse that has never seen a human before to a finished performance competitor. Even though the application looks different depending on the stage of training, the principle is consistent at every level of training which is why chose to give this fundamental a different name in my own training. This way I can refer to the fundamental, not just the application. This blog will explain how-to teach a horse the focus-in, focus-on fundamental.

Application: New horses

Equipment: Round pen

Let's take a look at how to apply the focus-in, focus-on fundamental to a new horse. This is the application that I use for horses that are in the first 30 days of training, or a horse that I have never met before. The objective is to direct the horse’s attention in-side the round-pen on you rather than anything else that may be going on in their environment.

1.Position: The horse should be on the rail and handler should be in the center of the round-pen.

2.Direction: Pick a direction left or right. This is the first direction of travel. The handler will move the horse around the round pen on the rail in this direction while remaining in the center of the round pen.

3.Movement: To encourage the horse to move forward, I use both hands. One hand is a directional hand and an impulsion hand. Extend the arm that is the direction that you want the horse to move so that it is parallel to the ground. Example: a horse moving left around the round pen extend the left arm, horse that is moving right around the round pen extend the right arm. This is the directional hand. Next use the opposite hand for impulsion. I like my horses to respond to verbal commands like clucks and kisses. So I first cluck wait for a response, then reinforce with the impulsion hand by rotating it in a circular motion towards the horse or slapping my thigh until the horse takes a step in the desired direction.

Pay attention to your body position relative to the horses body position. Forward motion is best achieved when you drive your energy towards the should of the horse from a position the is parallel or slightly behind the point of the hip.

From here the handler can expand and refine this technique till the horse is freely following the handler all around the round pen in both directions.

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