People always ask me for advice on how to ‘fix’ their horse. “My horse rears/shies/kicks up/won’t leave the barn/won’t leave his friend/won’t go into the trailer…” On and on it goes and everyone wants their horse ‘fixed’.
Others say “There’s something wrong with my horse because he lays his ears back/chases me/bites me when I do up the girth/kicks at me/runs over me etc. etc. How can I fix him?”
Here’s the deal. Horses are excellent learners. They can learn to rear, shy, lay their ears back, bite, kick, stay at the barn, stay with their friend and hundreds of other undesirable behaviours. It makes perfect sense to a horse to rear so that the rider stops annoying him, or to stop and snort and shy because then he’s allowed to do as he pleases, or to swish his tail, pull the reins and kick up because then he doesn’t have to leave the barn or leave his friend, or to run backwards and resist and then he doesn’t have to go into the trailer.
You must remember that there’s nothing wrong with a horse who learns to do these things. He’s just doing what he’s been taught.
When I was training horses for a living, people often asked if they could send me their horse to be ‘fixed’. “Can you train him for a couple of weeks so he won’t rear/shy/kick/bite etc. anymore.”
Well yes, I could work with a horse and overcome these issues but I guarantee one thing. When the horse goes home, he’ll be back to his old behaviour within a week. You see, every horse always looks for the easy way. Every horse will always do his own thing if he’s allowed to. And every horse always tries his hardest to find a way to relieve pressure and to make life easy for himself.
Horses think all the time and always know exactly what they want to do. Your horse may want you to stop annoying him or he may want to stay at the barn or stay with his friend. So he learns to rear, shy, swish his tail, kick up and pull the reins because then he’s allowed to do as he pleases.
Every rider must learn to show their horse that it’s unpleasant to use these undesirable behaviours. You must learn to show your horse that it’s always unpleasant for him to stop and snort, to pull the reins from your hands, to run back to the barn or rear or shy.
Equally, you must learn to show your horse that it’s always easy and pleasant for him to do what you ask and to move forward correctly and give.
You see, it’s always the rider who needs fixing, not the horse. A horse only ever does what he’s been taught to do. Maybe the rider isn’t competent enough to overcome the undesirable behaviour but that’s not the horse’s fault.
Don’t despair, everyone has problems. Instead of making a fight or a confrontation, always come back a step and find something that you know you can do and work from there. Remember, you’re just teaching your horse.
Don’t think you have to ‘win’ an argument or ‘show your horse who’s boss’.
Next time you think that your horse needs to be ‘fixed’, stop and remember that you must blame yourself. It’s always the rider who needs to improve. There’s no point blaming your horse.