Learn to Love Anticipation


You know how advertising jingles stick in your head? One of my favorites was used in a Heinz Ketchup commercial - you are probably recalling it already … “anticipation, anticipation is making me wait, its keeping me wai - a -a-ating” as you watch the delicious, thick, red yummyness come to the edge of the tipped bottle and slowly make its way to the juicy hamburger. We are sure that this ketchup will make that hamburger so much better and we can practically taste it already. Anticipation! They even called it out! If it worked so well for advertisers why oh why do so many horse owners and trainers speak so negatively about anticipation?

I have some ideas about that and maybe I can convince you to reconsider the immense value of anticipation when you are communicating with your horse.

1. Set up the pattern

2. Know your horse - is it go-ey or whoa-ey?

3. Look for anticipation: signs that the horse is expecting something at a specific spot

Anticipation creates energy and the smart horse owner-trainer wants to learn how to use and direct that energy so that they can mold it into the movement or stride or posture that they are training for. Many however, shut it down too soon and punish the horse for recognizing a pattern and trying to show what it thinks it should do.

Example: I often set up those first canter departs on a 20 m approach to the wall from the center line. Between “X” and the wall is where I give the cue. First, I build the pattern and let the horse know that something is going to happen at that spot. Repeating this pattern sets the horse up for the expectation of aids and it anticipates and responds with the energy I need.I allow the horse to choose to canter at that place on the pattern. Next I use the anticipation and the acceptance of canter as the horse’s correct choice. Finally, I am able to give lighter cues. I can use that “thinking” mind and increased energy to get the simple, easy, first canter departs without holding a bend and using strong or often, conflicting cues.

A down side of anticipation is that it can be rooted in fear and an escape mentality. Resistances may show up also and with the energy of anticipation behind these states and the results are

negative for both the owner-trainer and the horse. This is where the idea of not wanting anticipation comes from. Without anticipation in a setup for training, you may end up having to create the energy and a horse that is a slow thinker or in a fearful, frozen state won’t be able to learn what you want easily or as quickly as you want it to. The horse learns to guess.

Be encouraged riders! If your horse is anticipating because you set it up to do so then you are on your way to building communication in the ride that is light, thoughtful and willingly responsive. Embrace Anticipation!


You know how advertising jingles stick in your head? One of my favorites was used in a Heinz Ketchup commercial - you are probably recalling it already … “anticipation, anticipation is making me wait, its keeping me wai - a -a-ating” as you watch the delicious, thick, red yummyness come to the edge of the tipped bottle and slowly make its way to the juicy hamburger. We are sure that this ketchup will make that hamburger so much better and we can practically taste it already. Anticipation! They even called it out! If it worked so well for advertisers why oh why do so many horse owners and trainers speak so negatively about anticipation?

I have some ideas about that and maybe I can convince you to reconsider the immense value of anticipation when you are communicating with your horse.

1. Set up the pattern

2. Know your horse - is it go-ey or whoa-ey?

3. Look for anticipation: signs that the horse is expecting something at a specific spot

Anticipation creates energy and the smart horse owner-trainer wants to learn how to use and direct that energy so that they can mold it into the movement or stride or posture that they are training for. Many however, shut it down too soon and punish the horse for recognizing a pattern and trying to show what it thinks it should do.

Example: I often set up those first canter departs on a 20 m approach to the wall from the center line. Between “X” and the wall is where I give the cue. First, I build the pattern and let the horse know that something is going to happen at that spot. Repeating this pattern sets the horse up for the expectation of aids and it anticipates and responds with the energy I need.I allow the horse to choose to canter at that place on the pattern. Next I use the anticipation and the acceptance of canter as the horse’s correct choice. Finally, I am able to give lighter cues. I can use that “thinking” mind and increased energy to get the simple, easy, first canter departs without holding a bend and using strong or often, conflicting cues.

A down side of anticipation is that it can be rooted in fear and an escape mentality. Resistances may show up also and with the energy of anticipation behind these states and the results are

negative for both the owner-trainer and the horse. This is where the idea of not wanting anticipation comes from. Without anticipation in a setup for training, you may end up having to create the energy and a horse that is a slow thinker or in a fearful, frozen state won’t be able to learn what you want easily or as quickly as you want it to. The horse learns to guess.

Be encouraged riders! If your horse is anticipating because you set it up to do so then you are on your way to building communication in the ride that is light, thoughtful and willingly responsive. Embrace Anticipation!

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