Saturday, April 24, 2010

Building on positives a way of training for Ken McNabb.

During Ken McNabb's second session with his three-year-old sorrel gelding, Remedy, focusing on the positive was the main message. "You have to find something that you like and then build on it from there," he said during his session.

To demonstrate this point, McNabb recounted his experience with a mule he once trained. "I was so focused on what I didn't like about her, that I couldn't see anything else," McNabb said. "Then one day my wife said 'What would you tell one of your students in this situation?'" That was the turning point McNabb needed, which allowed him to focus on the positive - a message he'd give his students - which led to a different mindset during training and an entirely different relationship.

Using this same positive, calm approach, McNabb worked with Remedy on the ground and under saddle. He emphasized that whenever a horse becomes agitated, it's essential to keep calm. "You've got to stay really calm with your horse, because you're the leader," he said. "Often, it's not the physical changes that scare the horse, it's the emotional changes. As the leader, you have to be aware of that and stay calm."

McNabb recognized that Remedy had challenges with having his mouth handled, so he simulated the bridling process using a lead rope looped to resemble a bridle. Frequent rewards for the small positive gains helped to encourage the young horse to accept the rope into his mouth. And, by the end of the session, McNabb was able to bridle Remedy with a snaffle bit.

The gelding also became accustomed to McNabb's foot in the stirrup and his full weight on the saddle - McNabb repeated this process on both sides of the horse. "Really this is a process of A to Z horsemanship," he said. "Nothing will change from yesterday, we'll just keep building on it and progressing as the horse is ready."

McNabb will have his third run later this afternoon. For more coverage of the Trainer's Challenge, visit

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