There are a few key words that we should all think about every time we train our horses. First and foremost is confidence – a word that should be heard far more often in the horse world. Confidence is one of the most valuable traits that your horse can have in you. Confidence is defined as:
1. Full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing.
To gain the most from your horse, he must trust you completely and he must believe that you’re always reliable.
To be confident, your horse must know that you’re not going to frighten him. If you’re nice to your horse one day and you frighten him the next day, he’ll know that you’re not reliable and he won’t trust you.
Trainers often saddle young horses and let them buck, or harass them with flags and tarps. I’ve even seen a tarp tied onto a frightened horse’s tail. The trainer stood by while the terrified horse rushed round and round the yard. After such treatment, no horse will ever fully trust anyone. And he certainly won’t think that humans are reliable.
It’s always extremely difficult to try and gain the confidence of a horse that’s been treated in this manner. Some horses may forgive you for this type of treatment but not one of them will ever forget.
Another key word that we should think about during every aspect of training is relaxation.
Relaxation is defined as:
1. Being free of or relieved from tension or anxiety.
A frightened horse has high levels of tension and anxiety. You can’t relieve tension and anxiety in any horse by scaring him and expecting him to “get used to it”. A frightened horse must be taught to be confident and relaxed, one step at a time.
When a horse is relaxed, he’s in a frame of mind where he’s ready to learn. Always remember that horses can’t relax unless they’re confident. Relaxation and confidence go hand in hand.
In order to be relaxed, your horse must trust you and he must believe that you’ll always act in a reliable manner.
Reliable is defined as:
1. Consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted.
As a horse person, you must be exactly what this definition describes – consistently good in quality and performance and able to be trusted by your horse.
Don’t forget that ‘consistently good’ means that you’re good all the time. It doesn’t mean you can be good to your horse sometimes and frighten him at other times.
Your reliability is one of the most important gifts that you can give to your horse. He must be able to rely on you to always make lessons as easy as possible for him. Your horse must also be able to rely on you to never frighten him or stress him.
Many trainers say that your horse must respect you.
Respect is defined as:
1. A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
2. Due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.
Do you think any horse knows or cares about your abilities, qualities or achievements, great as they may be?
Do you think any horse knows what your feelings, wishes or rights are? Horses don’t think in these terms. Horses have no concept of human abilities, qualities, achievements, feelings, wishes or rights. Horses don’t understand human values.
Instead of expecting your horse to admire you or have regard for your feelings, wishes or rights, how about behaving in a manner where your horse is always confident and relaxed with you. How about making sure that your horse knows he can always count on you to be reliable and trustworthy in every situation.
Read more on this subject here: www.fearfreehorsetraining.com/blog/the-respect-myth