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YOUNG HORSE STARTING PROGRAM

Starting a young horse the Skystone way.

Leadership can't exist without a willing follower. In order for us to cultivate willing participation in our horses we need to work with their agency. Understanding Learning Theory and applying it to the empirical evidence of 40 years working with horses informs our methods. 

Every new young horse that enters the Skystone program gets time to acclimate. We want their mirror neurons to absorb the existing heard dynamics in order make the transition to school easier. Typically, this is minimum two weeks, during this time only boarding fees apply. 

The "Arrangement"

There is coherency from our first encounter to our last. When we put a head collar on your horse to when we take it off, we are securing an arrangement that can last a lifetime. Simply put, we are going to demonstrate that when they commit to allowing us to command go, stop, and steer, their safety is reliably in our hands.

Trustworthiness depends on two principles. Honesty and Competence.

Since horses do not have any identifiable region of their brain that allows for executive functioning (planning), we can deduce that deception and scheming are not capabilities they possess. Simply put, horses don't lie.

Honesty for us is evident in our intention to consistently look out for the wellbeing of our horses.

Competence is our actual ability to look out for our horses' wellbeing.

Ground Work

All training begins with groundwork. This allows your horse to learn how to manage themselves appropriately for the world around them without the added complexity of rider contingencies. Stimulus and response will be easily translated to riding aids when we progress to sitting on their backs.

Every Horse is Unique

Our method is not a curriculum that your horse marches through hoping to get a passing grade. Since this is the foundation of your horse's life in a people world it is our philosophy that compromise is not an option. We commit to securing behaviour patterns in bedrock. The speed of progress will be determined by your horse's character traits, their experience and ours. 

We have a comprehensive list of experiences that lead to willing participants in our go, stop, and steer regime. We don't short-cut these and have found that taking time at particularly challenging moments is essentially priceless. 

Your horse will consistently be encouraged to turn fear into curiosity with every novelty we present to them. In the early stages, most stimuli trigger the amygdule region (fight, flight, or status) of their brain. Great experiences will lessen the impact of existential variables over time although each horse has a unique threshold. We'll uncover your horses and help you understand how to manage this.

Video Updates

It is rare that our customers can attend every session, but they are welcome to do so as this is the best chance your horse has for a lifetime of enjoying your partnership. For those whose lives are committed to responsibilities beyond horses, we provide the next best thing in video updates. We include commentary specifically relevant to what your horse is learning during the video. We'll try to record videos at each milestone, although it is not always possible to catch the moment when it occurs.

Graduation

Our starting program ends when we have a reasonable ability to command go, stop, and steer while riding. At the baseline of performance training, relaxation is paramount. Every step we take is based on this philosophy. At every moment in the training, we are de-escalating tension. Later when your horse is entering the performance training phase, we increase the arousal to produce the energy needed for more. Never do we introduce tension by threat of consequence.

A word about "Go"

It is often said that "forward" is not an option. And it isn't. A horse that won't move is a sofa, just as falling off is not riding. Of course, how we get our horses to go is one of the most important things to understand about working with your horse's agency.

The world we are becoming is losing tolerance for coercive measures to "control" our horses. Our program doesn't focus on making your horse go forward, but on uncovering why they won't. 

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