It seems like there are more people now days getting into horses, they’re getting their first horse. I think this is great. I’ve always loved horses. Horses have been a very big part of my life. It’s also good for the industry for more people to get involved in the industry.
It’s too bad that too many people don’t understand everything that’s involved in owning and riding horses. There’s a lot of responsibility, and it’s not as easy as people think it will be. It costs more than they think it will. If you want it to work out, you need to take the time to educate yourself.
One specific area I see where there needs to be more education is in the area of “Horse Behavior”.
All too often people think that a horse thinks the same way people do. Sorry, but that’s not the way they think. I’m not going to go into the whole predator-prey animal thing because now days most horses are raised gentle. That instinct isn’t as strong unless someone gets a wild raised horse, or adopts a mustang.
We need to look at what motivates a horse to do what he does. A horse has a real strong self preservation instinct. Most of the time when a horse isn’t doing what we’d like him to do, he’s either doing what he thinks he’s suppose to do, or he’s doing what he thinks he needs to do to survive.
So, the first thing we need to do is make sure your horse doesn’t feel like he needs to protect himself. This consists of basically gentling the horse. I’m not going to go into that much because most horses now days are raised gentle.
The next thing we need to understand is how to get your horse to do what you’d like him to. When a horse doesn’t feel like he needs to protect himself, he’s really motivated by comfort. So, to get a horse to do what you’d like him to, you need to make it uncomfortable for him not to do it. As soon as he tries, you need to make him comfortable again.
We need to try to set this up in a way that horses would interact with each other.
Imagine a couple of horses in a field. You take a bucket of grain and set it down and walk away. Both horses are going to try to get some grain. The alpha horse will start eating grain, when the other horse comes close, the alpha horse is going to lay his ears back in warning. If the other horse stays back, nothing else will happen. However, if the other horse keeps coming, the alpha horse will do whatever it takes to get the other horse to yield. They will bite, kick, strike or whatever it takes. We may look at it and think it’s mean, or cruel. But, they establish a pecking order.
After this is established, they have an understanding. There are no hard feelings, no grudges, it’s over. If you took the alpha horse away, the other one would get upset like you were taking his best friend.
This is how we need to apply our training with our horses. First we just lay our ears back, then if we don’t get a response, we need to be ready to do whatever it takes. Get understanding, then it’s over. This is where the human has trouble. If our horse doesn’t do what we think he should, we take it personal, get mad, have to get even.
We need to learn to get a response in the right direction, and then let it go. Then you can start over, and will probably get an even better response.
For example: you’re asking your horse to go forward. Laying your ears back may just mean squeezing with your legs. Doing whatever it takes may be kicking with both legs and spanking him on the rump. Then let it be after you get a response. Then start over by just laying your ears back, squeezing with your legs.
When you are setting up your training like this, be careful not to just pick at your horse. Just ask your horse for a response, then if you don’t get one be ready to immediately re-enforce it with whatever it takes. This way a horse learns to respond with respect. If you just continually pick at them and don’t re-enforce it, you’ll cause your horse to be lazy, cranky, or resentful.
The next time your horse isn’t doing what you’d like him to, think about these things. If you don’t establish respect between you and your horse, he’ll constantly be challenging you.
Good luck with your horsemanship journey. Check out our Facebook page: Don Lindsay Horse Training
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