Are you looking for horse training tips?
Do you have problems connecting to your horse?
Or are you looking for advice around handling your horse?
If you are open for some challenging new thoughts, maybe I can help you!
As a starter, let me tell you that I am neither a professional competition rider, nor do I aspire to become one.
I am just a normal person who has loved horses all her life, and thus read, seen, watched, experimented, and spend a lot of time around these beautiful animals. I have ridden in all disciplines from show jumping to dressage, Spanish riding and endurance. I have looked at various types of horsemanship, but over the time, I have more and more come to the conclusion that everyone of us has to find their own style.
Also, the best teachers we can have are the horses themselves!
I had the privilege to come across various horses who have challenged me, asked me to step up and grow, and to look for more.
Out of my love for them, I have a desire to help people get a better understanding what the horses are trying to teach us.
A lot of the problems I see in stables are often just misunderstandings between two species, or simply ignorance on the side of the human, and problems that can easily be avoided.
In order to create more harmony between horses and humans, I really hope that some of my "horse training tips" can open up your eyes.
If I can get a few more people to think differently, this message will spread and help me make a change in many horses' lives.
The most important aspect we often ignore when working with horses is that they are completely different to us!
A lot of their behaviour, instincts, and thinking is radically different from ours, yet we always just look at them through our human glasses, and completely misinterpret their behaviour.
Horses are prey animals. We are typical predators.
Coming back to the fact that we are predators approaching a prey animal, the way we go to greet our horse in the stable leads me to the next horse training tip:
Be conscious of how you enter the horses' world and how you approach them.
As a predator, it is natural for us to walk straight up to our "prey", go directly to the head and hold on to it (aka put the halter on).
A horse would never approach another horse like that, and it proves to them that we are really predators.
Now, a horse is also an extremely gentle and forgiving animal.
The majority of horses we work with today are domesticated, have lived around humans all their lives, and know we are probably not going kill and eat them if we approach them in the way described above. They are also very sensitive in reading our intentions.
As a prey animal, they do run away from perceived danger, but they also need to conserve energy for a "real emergency". They cannot afford to jump and run every time something looks odd.
That's why they have developed a very
good sense of checking out the "predator" approaching and assessing if
that predator comes to harm or comes in peace. Not every time you see a
lion will the lion attack. It might just have had a good meal and is now lying in the grass with a full belly, in which case rapid retreat
is not as urgent for the prey.
Therefore, thinking about the
way you approach your horse and the intention you send out, goes a long way
in creating a harmonious relationship from the start, each day.
A lot of us were and maybe still are taught a style of handling horses and riding which dates back to military riding, and also to centuries where authoritarian leadership was accepted and was the norm in all facettes of society: government, work, private life. Think of parents and teachers requesting absolute obedience from children, including physical chastisement to ensure this.
For example, why do we always mount a horse from the left side?
Because the soldiers used to carry their sword on the left side, so the only free leg to swing over the horses back was the right one!
None of us carries a sword when riding anymore.
Yet, we all still follow the same process without even questioning it!
Or have you ever asked your riding instructor why you cannot mount a horse from the right?
Now, I am not saying you must mount your horse from the other side from now on.
But I am asking you to start questioning what you hear - don't accept everything you are being told as the one and only truth!
Rather, listen to your instincts and think for yourself. If something doesn't sound right or you feel bad about it, see if you can find another way!
“Work with the horse, not against him. Always listen to what the horse is trying to say. And always think for yourself.”
― Mark Rashid, Horsemanship Through Life
Do horses really have to be like sports machines, absolutely obedient, without being allowed an opinion?
Or is there are more collaborative way, a partnership, where in situations both partners are allowed to voice their thoughts?
Of course you want your horse to obey when it comes to dangerous situations - crossing a busy street, walking on slippery ground...
But there are also situations where it might be smarter and more motivating to give the horse options to choose from:
If you are riding out on a trail and you have time, why not try new paths?
When training in the arena, try to feel the horse and see what he is offering - and build on that, rather than pushing through with a certain set of exercises you had on your list.
In fact, the most successful horsemen come to the horse with no set
agenda - they just react to what is in front of them, and they work in
"horse-time" - the time the horse needs.
Sometimes it may take longer, sometimes shorter. A horse doesn't think in 60 min lessons, but we often are so tied up that we cannot relax enough when we are with the horse and take the time the horse needs.
See if you can spend a few more days relaxing around your horse, for example on weekends. Just being together and doing nothing, or grazing together - that is how horses in a herd spend most of their days, and that is how they bond and feel connected.
Or take time for difficult exercises like trailer-loading - practice this when you have no plan to go anywhere and can just create a relaxing atmosphere. They horse might not go in the first or second time you try this - but he will eventually if you don't stress.
If they associate trailer loading with stress, this emotion remains, and it will always be a challenge.
Whereas if you take enough time to practice this in peace and without rushing - giving the horse the time it needs - you will be rewarded with a horse that later can load a trailer without any effort - every time you ask him to.
Other times, a few seconds can make all the change - for example, taking a deep breath before you enter the stable to get present in the moment and let you stress from the outside world go.
Or the few seconds where the horse spooks, and rather than getting angry - you stay calm. The next time, your horse will be more relaxed too.
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