How to keep your horse’s focus during training sessions

Offering this brief acupressure session will help your horse focus and enjoy his training sessions with you.

Horses are hardwired to be constantly vigilant. Every ounce of their sensory perception is focused on their environment to detect any potential peril. This is how and why horses have survived for thousands of years. An errant plastic bag snagged on a tree flapping in the breeze could be a ferocious wildcat ready to pounce. To a horse the bag presents imminent danger. Given your horse’s proclivity for hypervigilance and your desire to keep him focused during training, how best can you work together?

Training – keep it challenging and interesting

Equine behaviorists and trainers can offer valuable recommendations for gaining and maintaining your horse’s attention and focus during a training session. Even the most spooky or busy-minded horse usually responds to disciplined groundwork. The general purpose of groundwork is to gain the horse’s respect. Make the groundwork interesting and gradually more challenging. Other suggestions are, while under saddle, to select exercises that require the horse to think and to consistently change your routine.

The main objective is to create a relationship with your horse where there’s mutual respect and trust. We have to understand that most horses are constantly checking out their environment for potential danger, and anything sudden or unknown can appear perilous. As humans we are simply not as reactive to our environment. It takes practice to think and feel like a horse.

How acupressure can help

Acupressure is a great resource to complement equine behaviorists’ and trainers’ recommendations for building your horse’s attention span. There are specific acupressure points, also called “acupoints,” that can reinforce a sense of trust, calm, and mutual respect while also building the horse’s confidence.

Acupoints and locations

In Chinese medicine the first two acupoints known to help the horse with gaining trust and calm are called Heart 7(Ht 7) and Pericardium 7 (Pe 7). Tthey are both located on the foreleg. These two acupoints can be held simultaneously because they are located just above the carpus (wrist). Ht 7 is on the lateral side, or outside, where you feel an indent. Pe 7 is located on the exact opposite side, medial side, or inside, of the horse’s leg. Place the soft tip of your thumb on one side and your forefinger on the other side and press gently. Repeat this on the other foreleg.

The next acupoint is known to strengthen the horse’s sense of confidence and balance thus making him less apt to bolt at environmental triggers. Conception Vessel 12 (CV 12) is known as the “Sea of Power. CV 12 located on the ventral midline between the end of the sternum and the horse’s umbilicus – right in the middle of the horse’s belly. Scratch that point.

Offering this brief acupressure session 2–3 times per week as an adjunct to the trainer’s suggestions will help your horse focus and enjoy his training sessions with you.