The common questions often fall into two categories:
- horse training
The relationship questions often times revolve around building a strong partnership and trust with horses.
This like in any human relationship can only be accomplished over a period of time. As trust and respect, two key requirements of a partnership require that they be earned and given freely without force, manipulation or intimidation. The other important aspect to the relationship is how high is your fun factor? Horses have a high fun factor and REALLY appreciate it when we come across with this attitude. If you ever want to do some liberty training, the key ingredient to remember is fun.
It is important to understand that EVERYTHING you do with your horse whether it is feeding, grooming, riding etc your horse is assessing your trustworthiness and whether you have earned his respect through your right actions.
Get the little things you do with your horse as just described really good with your horse and you will be a long way ahead of then wanting to train and successfully ride your horse.
Biting while saddling up
If your horse bites and gets anxious when you girth up. Don’t make an issue of the behaviour, instead do the opposite and make light of it, rub your horse for a minute. Take the girth up hole by hole in between rubbing his face. I have a horse who has learned this behaviour from whoever started her years and years ago, it hasn’t gone away, but I have certainly minimised her angst each time by making light of it and rubbing her.
You could also put your forearm up to block like a karate move, if he really goes to bite and it isn’t just a warning. Hitting your horse just adds to the stress. Another option is to interrupt the pattern by girthing up from the other side. Most horses are only girthed up from one side. Change sides and see what happens.
Have you ever found one day everything is fine and you are getting great stuff done with your horse, only to go out the next day and your horse is saying no? Well this stems from communication issues – do you have a system that you communicate to your horse with and you ALWAYS USE IT? Or do you have an idea but it varies day to day? This can and will exhaust your horse having to guess sometimes what you want him to do or not do. So sometimes horses just give up and say no, when they have reached their limit.
Or maybe what you did with your horse yesterday wasn’t as good as you thought. If your horse is saying no today maybe you overstepped the mark somewhere along the way yesterday. This is very interesting to reflect on and one I use all the time.
Do your leadership skills match what your horse needs from you to feel safe, confident and relaxed? It is up to us to SHOW the horse that we do care by having boundaries, a clear plan and a good understanding of what we are looking for as a response in the horse, and then being 100% consistent with them. Things like spooking, shying can all disappear if we get the right balance of boundaries, plan and understanding right.
If we lack confidence or are anxious then we cannot hide it from our horse. The best way out of this is to acknowledge to the horse what is going on inside you instead of pretending all is good. I whisper in my horses ear what I am feeling and thinking about and not only does it feel good to bring it to light, but it is amazing how the horse responds sometimes. My horse has licked and chewed, lowered his head, offered big sighs and even offered a big cuddle with his head wrapped in close to my body.
Loading into a trailer
Like all I have mentioned above, it is not about the loading in the trailer that is the problem (unless the horse has had a nasty fright in one, and that is a whole different thing) it is a leadership, trust and respect thing. Win your horses trust and respect by working with ground exercises designed to prepare the horse for this type of thing, instead of ambushing the horse and just expecting him to walk on. Sometimes you may get lucky, however will he go on tomorrow?
Just like horses, people have quite a fear of loading up and of course this also transmits to the horse, so now the horse is set up to see the trailer as something scary and won’t go on. Deal with the anxiety by airing it and if you are unable to change those thoughts or emotions, then get someone else to load the horse.
Having a clear plan and a process to execute the plan is vital when teaching a horse to trailer load. I use tiny baby steps so the horse and myself don’t feel overwhelmed about it having to happen today. It will happen when the horse is ready for it to happen. More often than not because of this intention it happens very quickly! I must add that my horse is already as prepared as he can be from all the other ground exercises we have done together, BEFORE I would ever attempt to load up.
The right equipment
Having the right tools for any job or activity are vital to a successful outcome. If you are a chef, would you use a cheap, general knife to prepare certain food?
Well we can only be as good as our equipment and tools. So get the best you can! For horsemanship groundwork it is recommended to use rope halters and leads as they send clear feeling messages through to the horse. They also feel alive. You can send a subtle feel or a stronger feel and as soon as you relax the feeling stops immediately in well practiced hands.
Having a communication tool to back you up is important when you are in the early building stages of the relationship and foundation training. I use a Buck Brannaman stick with flag or a Parelli carrot stick and string.