Generally, there are two types of horse people that you will come across. The first group is the ones who constantly nag at their horses like an exhausted mother. They shower their horses with treats and bribes and as a result, their horses became plain disrespectful, take advantage of every situation and run over their owners.
Then there’s the barbaric group; they are the ones who are never shy of using whips to make their horses do what they want. Being too authoritarian causes their horse to become too fearful, anxious and defensive.
If you want to be a good horse rider, you should be in the middle. You should have the right amount of authority that your horse will respect and obey you and at the same time have a soft spot for some treats and rewards. Gaining the trust and respect of your horse is something that you should acquire. These are the fundamentals of a strong relationship and earning their respect is a beginning of a strong foundation.
So how do you earn the respect of your horse?
The easiest way to do so is by putting yourself in your horse’s shoe. Understand his point of view. When you throw horses out in a pasture, it’s natural for them to have a pecking order established. On the first few days, tension is present in the group and there would even be a couple of fights. Within the next few days though, they establish a pecking order and there will be that horse that will stand as a leader of the group.
Gaining control of the whole group has something to do with the feet movement. A leader has proven to every horse in the pasture that he could move their feet forward, backward, left, and right. It’s natural for the horses to question the capacity of their leader though. You must know that they can also do the same way on your authority.
Work on the Ground
All problems that riders experienced are directly related to problems on the ground. Things could get really bad if you’re riding a horse and he suddenly went crazy and dangerous. One way of avoiding this problem and at the same time gaining the respect of your horse is by working him on the ground first.
You should never underestimate the power of doing more ground work and preparing your horse for a safer ride first. The more time that you spend with your horse on the ground and preparing him, the more respect you will get from your horse and the safer your ride will be.
Three Primary Exercises
Before you go out riding on your horse, make sure that you perform these three basic exercises first: yielding the forequarters, yielding the hindquarters and backing up. Combine one or more of these three movements every time you exercise your horse on the ground and under saddle. As you go advanced with your exercises, you should have more combination of four movements (forward, backward, left, and right) with these exercises.
As you advance your ground-work exercises, the respect of your horse as well as your leadership skill increases. Ground work does not just limit to leading your horse and walking him around the pasture for half an hour; it’s a step-by-step system that rewards you with your horse’s trust and respect.
Horses don’t respect wimps and they don’t obey barbarians either. If you want to have a better relationship, you need to prove to him that you are worthy of being a leader.
If you want to gain the trust and respect of your horse, you need to make him comfortable for doing the right thing and uncomfortable for doing the wrong thing. There’s some truth to the popular horse saying “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult.” Reward your horse and make him feel comfortable if he followed your order. When he becomes disrespectful and ignores your order, add pressure to make him feel uncomfortable.
A lot of people work with reward system only. When their horse did a good thing, they give them treats or awards. But when he does something wrong, they just ignore it like nothing happened. Though positive reinforcement is an effective way of instilling a behavior, you should never dismiss the power of penalty. When your horse does something wrong, make him feel uncomfortable so that he knows that what he did was wrong and that he would never do it again.
A Step-by-Step Approach
By nature, horses always have the instinct to choose the right thing. You have to believe in the fact that all horses are good by nature. Earning their trust and reinforcing behavior needs to be a step by step approach.
For example, there’s a group of horses that are surrounding the bale of hay lying in the middle of the pasture. The broodmare, which acts as a leader of the group, does not just go up to these horses and start kicking them. The reinforcement for this negative behavior should be gradual. First, she pins her ears and gives the horses the choice to leave. If they don’t listen, she pins her ears and acts like she’s going to bite them. If these efforts are still wasted, she pins the other horse’s ears and bites them. If they still don’t move she’ll kick them until the other horses move away from the bale of hay.
No two horses are the same; each one of them has their own unique traits and personalities.
Some riders blame their horses for the lack of respect. “My horse does not want to go on the trail ride because he doesn’t like your horse.” “My horse hates pink so I can’t use a pink lead rope.” Stop making excuses for your horse. Respect is not something that you hope and wish for; it’s something that you expect of.
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