Your most valuable training tool
Building confidence and relaxation at the California State Fair, Sacremento 1989.
Everyone looks for a magic fix to ‘cure’ their horse problems. Plenty of people will sell you a ‘magic’ halter, stick, lead rope, bit or some other contraption. None of them will really help. No contraption ever invented will teach your horse to be relaxed, confident and ready to learn.
I’m going to tell you about the most valuable training tool available in the world or any other large place. It’s free and I’m going to reveal it at no cost. Priceless!
It’s as simple as rubbing your horse’s head. Yes, give him a rub and show him that it’s always easy and pleasant to be with you. Your horse will learn that whenever he brings his head to you, it will be a pleasant experience. He’ll learn that when his head is with you, he can ‘switch off’ and relax. He’ll learn that you won’t chase him or hit him when he has his head with you.
Horses soon learn to enjoy having their head rubbed. I do it with every horse for their entire life. It doesn’t matter if he’s a few days old or twenty years old. If you can’t rub a horse’s head, neck and around his ears, he isn’t totally relaxed and confident.
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Whether I’m catching a horse for the first time, starting him under saddle or re-training him, my first step is to go to the horse, rub his head and show him it’s easy and pleasant to be with me.
It’s pointless to try and lead a horse, handle his legs, tie him up, saddle him, ride him or do anything else if he’s frightened. Confidence and relaxation are the keys to teaching your horse, no matter his age or stage of training.
Take time to rub your horse’s head, neck and around his ears every time you’re with him. You can’t overdo it, so there’s nothing to lose and absolutely everything to gain.
Fast forward almost a quarter of a century and it's business as usual. Starting this mare under saddle. Bargo, New South Wales, Australia, 2013.
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