Notes on training a miniature horse:
Glad that you are enjoying your minis. They will bring you many years of joy.
Just like children, or adults for that matter, horses will test your limits. If you reward for positive behavior, which may be with your voice tone and a scratch on the neck or an occasional treat, they quickly learn that it is easier to do what you ask of them.
Many times training problems arise from lack of understanding what is being asked of them or fear of a new situation. 99% of the time, the horse truly wants to do what you want him to do. Rarely will you find one that is just looking for a confrontation. The problem with food treats becomes their desire for more, then they become demanding.
Also, it is much easier to keep from developing bad habits than to try to break one.
It sounds like you have already developed a rapport with your minis, now the challenge is not to spoil them. Truly, training a mini is no different than training any other animal – body language, consistency, repetition, and tone of voice is the key.
Consistency – as children we learn language in order to communicate. Our parents teach us that language by word repetition and word association. The horse must learn our language and vice versa. Since horses do not verbalize as we do they must learn. They will learn through repetition. Use the same words for the same actions and situations.
I don’t really have a book that I could recommend; observation is how I learned to show. Until 1988 I had never owned a horse, so it was all new to me.
If you have shows close to you, go and observe what the winning handlers are doing as far as show style. Not all trainers show the horses respect but if you watch, you can see the difference in the way the horses respond. Some show because they like the handler, others respond out of fear.
I’ve been fortunate to have a natural rapport with animals so training is easy for me. I hope it will be for you too.
The information below is an article from the publication The Horse, I couldn't agree more! You may also find the article on line at TheHorse.com a publication well worth the cost available in magazine form and eNewsletters.