Natural Horse World

Friendship Training


Finn feeling relaxed and happy.

Founder of this unique method of ‘training yourself so your horse can understand you’ Chuck Mintzlaff, found my website and suggested a link. As I’m naturally cautious about recommending products, people and methods I decided to thoroughly research Friendship Training to find out if it was as good as it sounds.

So much of this method rang true with my equine values as I’d been practising many of the ‘attitudes’ about horse training and care that make up Friendship Training for quite some time. But I was pleased to find there’s so much more we can do to develop that truly close relationship that few of us get a glimpse of with those very special horses.

I chose to start some of the first steps with my friendly but relatively ‘un-trained’ 7yo arabian stallion, Finn. I bred and raised him to do all the right things to be easy to handle and live a good life in his bachelor herd of geldings after breeding a few foals. However, he was not what I’d call an easy horse to communicate with – as most stallions are full of their own importance, he would choose to ignore me or put up with what I had to do.

Since starting Phase 1 and 2 of the program, I have noticed a distinct difference in his attitude to me. He seems to want to interact with me now and I think that’s because we are developing a language we both understand. Even though I’m at the very beginning of this fascinating program, I can see the potential to have one of the closest relationships anyone could wish for with a horse.

And this is evident when you watch the videos of Chuck and his stallion, Combustion, playing and demonstrating a little of what Friendship Training is about. There are links on his website to these, along with a load of information that may well change the way you look at horses forever.

Here is a broad description of what Friendship Training involves – all without any kind of restriction on the horse – all of the ground play is totally at liberty! No halters, ropes, sticks, whips, cordeos or round pens! Now that’s what I call giving horses a choice and I feel its where the ‘next generation’ of horsemanship is heading.

Friendship Training is based on the Peer Attachment equine relationship found in any feral or domestic herd. Unlike the normal hierarchal herd relationship, this is an extremely intimate, harmonious relationship not shared with other herd members. The entire focus of Friendship Training is establishing and nurturing a true interspecies friendship between a horse, (regardless of age, breed, gender, or previous life experiences) and a human. Though behavior modification occurs, it is incidental. Perception modification, (how the horse perceives and regards us) is paramount.
Horses Never Forget Human Friends

Phase 1. Preconditioning.

During this phase, the horse is fed at the same time and place in an open area where they do not feel restricted.
*All interactives, (Friendship Training Exercises called FTXs) are held in an open area because the horse’s primary means of survival is flight. Restricting a horse and forcing it to do something creates stress and/or fear that diminishes learning and results in a confrontational, negative relationship.
During this phase, their human teacher learns more about their horse’s emotional, physical, nutritional, social and instinctive needs in a natural life environment based on ethological documentaries.
Also during this phase, the teacher practices using a combined ‘sign language with voice’ that will enhance their ability to talk to their horse. Voice tone and volume, facial expression and body language will later be added to this ‘sign language with voice’ to micro-adjust communication to each specific situation and to enhance that crucial ‘bridge language’ between them.

The hand-face-body cue/requests are used because the majority of horse’s communication is with their body. This makes it easier for the horse to learn and understand what we are asking. They are also combined with a vocal word to enhance the ‘bridge language’ they share. The vocal cue/requests are later transferred to minute physical cue/requests in the riding phase. This is crucial as communication is the building block of trust. ALL reciprocal communication from the horse is encouraged throughout the relationship building process, (with the exception of actions that may directly injure their human teacher).
*Several decades ago, an Internationally renown equine ethologist, (Marthe Kiley-Worthington) taught a small herd of horses over 250 words.

“Since horses are able to learn and memorize human words and can hear the human voice better than even dogs can, due to their particular range of hearing, the scientists predict trainers could have success if they incorporate more vocal commands into their horse training programs”.

Raelene in Serpentine, Western Australia gets a ‘kis

Phase 2. First Lessons.
In this phase, (in the same open area where the horse does not feel any pressure of restriction or confinement) the horse learns to do several very simple, easy to understand, easy to do exercises, (Back, Stand, and Come).

The horse also learns the beginnings of patience and that coming to their teacher when requested, (or of their own choice) and touching them gently with their nose in a specific manner is overwhelmingly appreciated. Praise is always liberally applied by the teacher.

Phase 3. Walking the Clock.

In this phase, the horse learns the patience to Stand more than momentarily. This is beneficial when mounting, adjusting tack or blankets, vet check, taking temperature, farrier work, and many other situations in their domestic life.

Phase 4. Tactile/Interactive Habituation.

In this phase, the horse learns to accept unnatural and/or uncomfortable mild invasives such as hoof care, overall body touch/massage, dental exams and injections.

Phase 5. Paired and Individual Movements.

In this phase, the horse learns various movements, (such as sidepass, turn on forehand/haunches, etc) and to lead, (learning right and left, Gee-Haw, Whoa, trot, forward and lunge without restraints in the same open, unrestricted area.

Phase 6. Walks in the Park.

During this phase, the horse and his teacher go for walks initially of short duration with a lead line and halter to gradually explore their area together. Both distance and duration are gradually increased. Of greatest importance in this phase is the number of ‘walks’ per week, (at least five or six). Instead of being a sporadic intrusion into the horse’s daily life, the `walks’ become an accustomed social sharing of experiences.

Phase 7. Mounted Activity.

During this phase, the horse learns to accept first a saddle and pad and learn to stop immediately when it becomes ‘off center’ or falls off completely. Sequentially, they also learn to accept the teacher on their back without the saddle and respond to the transference of vocal cue/requests they learned on the ground previously to tactile cue/requests when carrying their teacher, (in a safe area preferably the ‘classroom area’). Then the saddle is incorporated with the rider. The same sequential pattern is used as was used with the Walking Phase by gradually extending the initial `Riding Out’ sessions of short periods and distances to longer ones to different locations as the mounted relationship grows in mutual confidence.

Final Phase 8. Comprehensive Evaluation.

Chuck and Combustion.

Written assignments and video assessment for evaluation and certification of Amateur Level.

The advancement to each succeeding phase is completely dependent upon the confidence both the horse and his teacher feel they have attained.

There are no time expectations or limitations as to how long it will take any equine, (or their human teacher) to comfortably, safely, move on to the next phase.

The program can be tailored for horses that will not be ridden and horses with severely traumatic experiences.

Friendship Training also gives foals the best possible start in life.

Founder: Charles H. (Chuck) Mintzlaff email Ph. USA (972) 225-5800


2 thoughts on “Friendship Training”

  1. Josephine Guidotti

    When training one companion in the round yard. My other horse won’t move from just standing & watching. Looking irritated Is this a good idea?

    1. Cynthia

      Hi Josephine,
      It’s quite normal for the horse not being trained to want to be near to his/her companion (they are herd animals after all) and maybe helping the horse you’re training to stay calm and focused.
      So I’d not worry about it and even encourage the other horse to stay nearby by giving him/her some hay to munch on. 🙂
      Cheers, Cynthia.

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