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  • Writer's pictureLouise Stobbs

If you're not being consistent you're being confusing

If we want our horses to be reliable we have to be reliable.

This is something quite a few of my clients struggle with as we have been taught that if the horse doesn’t respond immediately we must act quickly. We almost panic and escalate pressure or change tactic if the horse doesn’t seem to be responding within a few seconds, but in fact all we’re doing is teaching the horse to ignore cues.

Lets take an example, you’re trying to get your horse to take a step back, first you try pulling on the head collar, that doesn’t work so you drop the pressure there and start pushing on his chest, that doesn’t work so you start waving your arms in their face and shouting, maybe he eventually moves back but you just confused the hell out of him. 😵‍💫

You might want to try gently keeping the pressure on the head collar and just waiting for him to even shift his weight back, then release, rinse and repeat until he understands. I’m not saying you can’t have lots of different ways to ask your horse to move back, but you have to train them.

Another example you see all the time is a horse that walks off as soon as the rider is in the saddle. Maybe some days you persevere and get the horse to stand still, but maybe other days you’re in a bit of a rush or just can’t be bothered so you let it slide. This is confusing to a horse, you can’t say its okay one day and not the next but expect the horse to know the difference.

If we progress through training in a way that makes the right answer easy and give the horse time to figure things out, they will start to be more receptive. As we become more predictable they will feel more confident in their work as they know what is expected of them.

Horses that have been trained using a lot of escalating or confusing pressure are often slower to learn, they just try anything to find the right answer as quickly as possible so the pressure stops or they become shut down because they think nothing they do will make the pressure stop. The more you work with your horse in a consistent, calm and clear manner the more attuned to you they will become. But if you’re always changing the rules how can they learn?

Patience is a virtue and probably the most important skill to develop when working with horses. 🐴

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