Horse Training Home Truths
Here, in no particular order, are a few home truths about horses:
1. It’s always good to ‘pet’ your horse at the appropriate time. Every horse will soon learn to enjoy having his head rubbed. Being nice to your horse doesn’t mean that he’s allowed to push over you or do whatever he pleases.
2. Your horse isn’t stupid. He doesn’t think you’re another horse. He knows the difference between horses and humans.
3. Your horse doesn’t think that he’s higher or lower in some imaginary pecking order. And no amount of chasing any horse will change this.
4. Your horse may be a prey animal but that’s got absolutely nothing to do with training him. Every horse can be taught to be confident and relaxed with humans. However, an unhandled or badly handled horse will be nervous and worried around humans.
5. A long stick is not an extension of your arm. It’s a long stick. Every horse knows exactly where your arm ends and where the stick begins.
6. A horse won’t be the least bit worried or frightened by a stick or blunt spurs or a plain snaffle bit, so long as they’re used correctly. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using them –correctly.
7. Positive reinforcement means that you add something that reinforces a behaviour. e.g. Giving your horse a treat when he does as you ask.
8. Negative reinforcement means that you remove something that reinforces a behaviour. e.g. Giving your horse a squeeze with your leg until he moves forward, then removing your leg from his side.
9. Using negative reinforcement is not detrimental to the well-being of your horse. Advanced movements can’t be taught by positive reinforcement alone.
10. Your horse won’t do anything because he loves you.
11. Horses have no concept of leadership. Your horse is not looking for a leader. Whenever you’re with your horse, you’re simply teaching him, you’re not being his leader.
12. Your horse can’t be desensitised. However, you can teach your horse to accept new items or to accept things that worry him. This is teaching –it’s not desensitising.
13. There’s no such thing as a horse whisperer. Horse training is logic, not magic.
14. Catching a horse with feed is not bribing him or spoiling him. It’s teaching your horse that it’s good for him to come to you and be with you.
15. Every horse soon learns what behaviours are rewarded with a pleasant experience. Whenever your horse comes to you, it must be a pleasant experience for him.
16. It’s never right to expect any horse to “get used to” anything or to “work things out for himself”. At every stage of training, your horse must be taught every step of the way.
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