Safety first!   Horses are big, powerful animals. Whenever possible, stay where your horse can see you. Never walk behind your horse. Walk around in front of him. If you have to be out of his sight but close to him, talk to him so he knows where you are. As you move to where he may not be able to see you, run your hand down his side to let him know where you’re going. When working with his head, stand on his left (as a horse trainer, you should know that his left side is referred to as his nearside), in line with his ear and on an angle. He can see you best there, and you can move away easily if something startles him. Never stand directly in front of your horse, and never kneel or sit on the floor around him. If you have to work on his legs or hooves, bend rather than squat.

Take it slow.   Move slowly and don’t try to teach your horse everything all at once. If you wish to teach him a new skill or make changes to the way he does something, teach him the new approach in a series of steps that are small enough for him to successfully master. For instance, if you want to teach your horse to bow, first teach him to follow a target with his nose. Then you can move the target to guide his head between his forelegs. To teach targeting, you must first teach him to touch the target and then teach him to follow the target until you say he can stop. Here’s another example: If you want to teach your horse to back up, your first step might be simply asking him to shift his weight back, and your second step might be asking him to take just one step back. Regardless of what you’re teaching, you should only move to the next step when your horse is happy and successful doing the first.

Talk to your horse as you work with him.   Speak softly in a low tone of voice. Avoid yelling or using a high-pitched tone when communicating with him. A calm voice creates a calm horse.

Reward good behavior!   Let your horse know when he does what you want and then immediately reward him so that he’ll likely repeat the behavior when you ask him to do it again.

Be patient with yourself and your horse.   Temper your temper. Don’t lose your temper—don’t ever even use it. Anger never helps in training. Instead, it actually interferes with your timing, your judgment and even the fluidity of your movements. Be prepared to work through problems. Horses have good days and bad days. They get frustrated and worried, just like people. Your job as your horse’s trainer is to keep calm, be quietly persistent and continue working until you get an acceptable behavior from your horse that you can reward. Even if your horse does get a bit frustrated over something and act up, if he’s been properly prepared in his training—if you aren’t asking him to do something he can’t figure out—he should quiet quickly after his small blow-up.

Respect your horse and your role as his trainer.   Your relationship with your horse must be built on mutual respect and trust. Harsh, abrupt, forceful methods damage the relationship between you and your horse and interfere with learning.

Be patient.   Training a horse takes persistence and, most of all, patience. Attempting to force a horse to behave is rarely productive and most often backfires, creating even more problems than may have existed in the first place. Regardless of what you want to teach your horse, you’ll be most successful if you break the task down into very small steps and help you horse learn each step well before moving on to the next.

Have a goal and know the path to that goal.   Working with horses always goes best when there’s a goal to the training. This is true whether you’re simply putting your horse’s halter on him or teaching him to cut cows from a herd or stay collected in the passage. Always know what it is you wish to accomplish, and know what your horse must do to move toward that goal.