The first thing I always did when working with a new horse at the rescue I volunteered at last year was do join up. I found this very important in training, as it forms a bond with the horse and establishes your role as alpha.
In join up, the human being assumes the role of the dominant mare in the herd. When a horse is put into a new herd, the dominant mare will make the new horse move, establishing that s/he is inferior to the mare. Doing join up is the same thing. I loved the farm I volunteered at because we had a fantastic round pen perfect for join up, but really this can be done in any enclosed space. After making the horse move and getting them to listen to you, turn away. The horse should stop and if they have joined up with you will walk towards you. The key is to not turn around.
Joining up with a horse is really an amazing experience. I joined up with my personal horse the first time I ever worked with him, but that was last December. Since then, I have gotten caught up in the whirlwhind of his training, and somewhat stupidly have not joined up with him ever since. Today a friend of mine came out of the barn, as she is going to be working with him once a week for me. I have not done very much loose work with my horse recently, so this is what we focused on today. I stepped out of the ring and she got him moving away from her at the trot and just let him go around the ring - he could trot, canter, do anything he liked as long as he was focusing on her. It was amazing to watch. He started off very distracted, and would stop in two different corners of the ring, try to graze, and even contemplated jumping the fence. After only a few minutes, she was able to turn away and he came into her. After this, he followed her around like a puppy! It was really cool to watch. I started to join up with him today, and almost got it, but ran out of time. I will continue to do work with him at liberty and continue this once or twice a week. It forms a fantastic bond with a horse and you will earn a certain degree of respect from them that can not be achieved any other way.
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