Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Mike Neal Halter Clinic - The Final Steps

Mike Neal Halter Clinic

Once the Arabian horse has learned to drop its head all the way to the ground, it's time to teach the horse the fourth step in Mike Neal's method for training Arabian halter horses. In this step, we ask the horse to elevate its head.

To be truthful, we didn't really work much on elevation at this clinic. All the horses there seemed to have a good understanding of elevating on cue. So I'm going to run through the process that I learned about elevation in the Jesse Saldana clinic I'm sure they are the same because the cue is the same.

Walking the horse forward like your going to work on your halter stance, you set the horse's feet remembering to keep hands down low. Then lifting the lead hand up, you ask the horse to follow you hand. Of course, the horse won't start off knowing that's the cue, so the hand will raise and the horse's head will not. The correction is a pull down or a shank back with the lead. The horse's head will immediately come up so the horse gets praised.

It doesn't take long for the horse to realize it needs to stand up tall. But the handler continues lifting the hand progressively higher and higher to teach the horse it must follow the height of the hand.

The goal is to get the horse's to not only lift its head but to be lifting its neck as well. The horse does this by lifting up its shoulder with the lift travelling on up the neck and breaking over at the poll. These days they want that neck to look like it comes straight up out of the whither and the breaking over like a swan's.

It helps to have someone who understands halter to look from the side to figure out the best position for the horse's head and neck. In the process of teaching a horse elevation, they tend to go through a stage where they suck their neck back some and from the side they look quite ugly. But that is a normal step along this process. Continuing to teach the horse to lift will move it on through this stage and get to the desired look.

Like all the other steps we have worked on, the focus is on accomplishing this one aspect of the training process. If the horse steps off its feet while the handler is still teaching the horse elevation, the mistake is let go. Once the horse has learned to elevate correctly, then its time to go and put it all together.

And that is Mike's fifth and final step. Putting this all together. Now it's time to hone the skills the horse has learned. It's also time to reinforce that halter can be fun. Like I mentioned in the information on backing in the first post, Mike uses his body and his voice. The more animation that Mike uses in asking the horse, the more animated the response from the horse.

That doesn't mean that Mike jumps up and down in the ring looking like he's up to some kind of antics. It just means his movements are quick! Fast, abrupt movements catch the horse's attention and that's exactly what Mike wants. The same with the tone of his voice, he keeps it sounding playful encouraging the horse to see this whole thing as a game. Of course he rewards them for doing things correctly and also for playful expressions.

In this final stage it's important to work on timing. I've heard it said you have 5 seconds in center ring to show your horse. You don't want that time spent getting the horse into position. Setting the horse must be quick and deliberate. Mike stressed in the clinic moving in larger movements helps to animate the horse.

This is where Rachel and I both got into trouble. Mike said our horses were beautifully trained but we were too slow and methodical. Our lesson to work on was picking up the pace not just with our feet but by adding animation to our movement to provoke expression in our horses.

At one point in my lesson, Mike grabbed me from behind and pulled me backwards as I was walking backwards with my horse. He wanted me to "feel" how fast my steps backwards should be. Mostly what I felt was me stepping on Mike's feet but you can bet I won't forget to move faster!

Once Mike has gone through all of these steps, he continues by mixing them up. He doesn't want the horse to get bored but he wants it to be well trained. So he might spend a day on moving the front feet back and forth, another day on dropping its head to the ground, and a day working on elevation. Making sure that the horse stays tuned on each step so that he has a well trained, responsive horse in the show ring.

Visit Blog Village and vote daily for this blog Here They are now measuring the rankings by votes out, so if you find my blog on the site, please click that link too to improve my rankings. TY


  1. Your horses are all so good, they make my paints look like an unruly mess LOL.

    Keem em coming, I ccant wait to see how you get this all together i the show ring and knock the socks off those snobby trainers LOL.


  2. This has been a great series of posts. BTW, Happy Easter, Mikael!

  3. Happy Easter MiKael and the whole gang. This is an informative and interesting series, I'll keep stopping by and learning.

  4. sheesh my typing stinks in my last post .... hangs her head in shame .... LOL

  5. Hi MiKael! I ran across your blog a couple days ago when looking for article/help for training arabians at halter. I hope to use a lot of the info as reference to aid in training my yearling, Captain. I started a blog on his training.
    Thank you so much for posting not only articles, but pictures! :)

  6. This series has been awesome