The Magazine September 2022

In good shape

Posted 5th August 2022

The steps to successfully training or retraining a horse’s behaviour should always start by having a written plan in place. Anna Haines shows you how

Anna Haines shaping plans September 2022

Training or retraining any equine behaviour is a complex task with many, very small, steps. When progress is slow or inconsistent, it can be difficult to know how your horse is getting on.

This is where shaping plans come in. In short, a shaping plan is a step-by-step training programme that leads you and your horse towards your goal. Not only is this helpful for accountability, it’s also proven that having a physical, written plan is important for success, because any behaviour built on poor foundations won’t be strong or reliable for long. So, where do you start?

What is a shaping plan?

A shaping plan is a written version of your training plan, with each tiny step included to help shape your horse’s behaviour towards your end goal. Even seemingly simple behaviours, such as lifting a horse’s leg, can be broken down into many tiny steps.

Humans are very goal orientated, meaning we often want to jump straight to the desired behaviour, but by doing this we can easily overface our horses. This can lead to them losing confidence or even becoming fearful of the very thing we’re trying to help them become more positive about. The key to avoiding this scenario is developing, and following, a shaping plan.

Before you start

Whether you’re training a new behaviour or retraining a problematic one, it’s important to first evaluate the environment and management systems your horse lives in.

To set horses up for success we need to provide an environment where they can fulfil their essential needs – access to companions, a forage-based diet and space in which to move around freely.

Providing these needs helps to keep down your horse’s baseline stress levels, which puts him in a good place for learning and sets you both up for success.


Pick up a copy of September Horse&Rider to find out more about shaping plans and how to use them – September issue on sale now!

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