Is Your Horse a Partner?
There are many different styles of training and working with horses. Some people fawn over their horses with praise and affection, others take a more military style approach with defined boundaries and little affection, and many people fall somewhere in between.
Harmony horsemanship professes a balance of boundaries and praise. Horses that are allowed to do as they please can become pushy or anxious, while horses that are always under strict instruction can end up disliking humans leading to dangerous misbehaviours, or just a general lack of motivation, which can be frustrating and limiting.
Horses need to be partners – although it works well if humans maintain the leadership role. Horses need a mixture of boundaries and praise.
Horses need boundaries so that they understand:
- You are the leader
- They need to respect your personal space (which will help you stay safe)
- They need to follow your focus
- That they can trust you
- That you are paying attention (which will keep them safe)
This is important for both pleasure and competition horses – you want your trail horse to believe you when you tell them the rock up ahead isn’t scary, and you want your competition horse to not be upset by a changed routine, course, or show ground. If the horse recognizes you as the leader, they will trust you when you say something isn’t scary. They will also be okay with changing routines and places because they are following your lead.
Horses also need praise. Praise can be different for different types of horses – some horses like treats, some like rubs or rest breaks, and some like a variety of play and new challenges to keep them motivated. Horses need praise because it will keep them wanting to work for you.
Beyond praise and boundaries, the horse needs to feel like a partner if you truly want your horse to try for you. A partner needs to share responsibilities and be valued for their input. A partner shouldn’t be scolded for trying their best, even though they may not succeed.
Give your horse easy responsibilities – allow the horse to maintain direction, speed, and to watch where they are going. Give your horse a chance to do his responsibilities – allow him to make a mistake, and then politely correct. If your horse gets confused or offers the wrong thing, don’t scold him or get him in trouble, just regroup and ask politely again until you get what you want – then praise.
Horses that are partners will be safer and easier to work with because they trust and respect you as a leader and more importantly because they want to be with you.
If you are interested to have Lindsey help teach you and your horse to get better connected, check out our clinics page.