Fear free Horse Training


There are some approaches to horses and horse training that are not only idiotic, but cruel as well. I hear and see things every day that make me cringe. Here are a couple of recent beauties:

From my Facebook page:

“We have a girl in our barn who has been taught to scare her horse, so that she can then calm it down. She feels that she is teaching it coping skills. I feel for the horse!! Any comments?”

From a Youtube video:

A horse was relaxed and standing quietly with a trainer. Then out of the blue, the trainer produced a plastic bag and proceeded to harass the horse with it. The horse was startled and reacted by rushing away. And the trainer said:

 “At some point this horse is going to be frightened of something, so I might as well frighten him now, so he’ll get used to it.”

These are two of the more stupid things I’ve seen and heard. It makes absolutely no sense to frighten a horse that’s relaxed and confident, so you can calm him and make him relaxed and confident again.

Imagine using this approach with a child. On your child’s first day of school, the teacher says “Now Johnny, one day someone’s going to bully you and we want you to be prepared. So, we’re going to put you in a room with the school bully every day and he’s going to harass you and frighten you for an hour or so.”

“Now don’t worry. Every session with the bully will make you less frightened. You’ll react less each day and eventually you’ll be desensitised. After a week or so, you’ll be used to being frightened and you won’t react at all!”

This sounds stupid because it is. Yet when it comes to horses, some trainers say and do exactly the same thing and some people think it’s okay.

You can make up all sorts of stories to justify frightening horses and don’t worry, I’ve heard most of them so please don’t tell me another one. I don’t want to hear it.

The idea that a horse’s response will wane when he’s constantly exposed to things that frighten him, is nonsense.

And please don’t tell me it must be right because it’s been done for the last hundred years. And don’t tell me it must be right because some so-called “famous” trainer does it. I don’t care how long it’s been done and I don’t care who does it.

However, I do care when I see horses being frightened and stressed.

You don’t have to get any horse used to things that worry or frighten him. Instead, everything must be introduced to every horse in a manner that he can understand and accept. Everything must be introduced to every horse without the horse being frightened in the first place.

Always remember, there’s never any need to flap anything around any horse, at any stage of his training. Instead, you must build every horse’s confidence one step at a time, every step of the way.





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Amen! So relieved to read someone more influential than I am say something I've thought for years. I never grew up around horses but moved to the country when I was 29 (I'm 50 now) and rescued 2, wild off the hills, 17" monsters with 2 speeds (flat out gallop and dead stop). Don't know who was more frightened, them or me! I trawled the Horse and Country channel and the internet and picked up a lot of good stuff that made sense. Scaring them more never made sense to me?! These days I have 2 calm, well-mannered horses who trust me and can be trusted around my grandkids. They free-range around but never go far when let out their field, they come galloping to meet my whistle, lie down with me in the garden and are responsive to me in the saddle. They've been very patient with this city girl as I've learned and I don't believe we could have achieved this had I tried to scare them out of being scared?! I remain open to learning more and know there's lots more to learn. Thanks for being a voice for the horse.
Your's sincerely,
Susan McAlister

Susan McAlister January 12th, 2017

Thanks for your comment Susan.
Sounds like you've done a good job with your horses.
All the best from Neil

Neil Davies January 16th, 2017

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