A SPECIAL POST BY ADIVA MURPHY
Question: “I ask my horse to do something and he does something quite different. Even if I get mad at him, he just doesn’t get it. My neighbor says to keep on him and eventually he will come around. Is this true? Can you help me with this? Do you have any tips or some way I can understand what I’m doing wrong?”
Answer: The rider needs to learn to make a lot of adjustments so that the horse can understand. If they do not understand something try asking the ‘question’ different.
Don’t focus on what the horse is doing wrong, otherwise the rider/handler will usually end up scolding the horse rather than focusing on teaching the horse what is right. The horse just becomes afraid of doing the wrong thing and the problem will lead to more problems.
Remember when you want to correct a horses behavior there is no such concept as punishment to the horse. In the herd, if a horse is yielded out of his space by another horse, he doesn’t go away and stew on this for 10-15 minutes and come back mad and kick the other horse. If a horse is bitten by another horse he doesn’t go get a group of his friends and come back to “teach the other horse a lesson”. This is a human thing; we do this – horses don’t! If there’s going to be a confrontation, it’s immediate and going to happen at the moment of conflict.
Learn to correct behaviors quickly and effectively without being angry.
The horse doesn’t understand speech, but does read body language better than we ever will. Make sure you are very aware of what your body language is telling your horse. Your horse picks up on your attitude. If you are having a bad day you are probably sending a message to your horse through your posture, tone of voice, movement, etc. Your anger, whether inwardly or outwardly expressed – will be picked up by your horse.
If the horse isn’t responding to an aid or cue it’s likely the rider’s or handler’s fault. How can you correct a horse for something you do wrong? Or doing what you asked – even inadvertently? Learn to watch what your body is doing. Your horse will appreciate the openness in your communication.
Take time out to work out what went wrong with your cue and ask the question differently. The horse will tell you where he is at mentally. Learn to work with them on their level. Work him with things he understands.
The more horses you can work with; the more horses you can be around; the more variety of people you can watch and learn from; the faster you will learn. You can learn something from anyone, even if it is to be sure that’s not the way you want to do it.
Make sure there is purpose and a meaning behind everything you ask your horse to do. Encourage their mind to be involved, they love to have a job to do and to have responsibilities. Horses are living breathing beings and appreciate that you give them a chance to think for themselves. Let them work out a situation or cue – don’t force it. Before you know it whenever you ask them something it becomes their idea to try hard and figure out what you want, this is when you have a partnership.
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