Horses

Got a Horse Puzzle? How to Solve It

Horse’s sometimes have it tough, unlike people it’s difficult to sit down and talk a problem through. When learning new skills the horse to learn by figuring out what you want them to do, it’s a kind of trial and error.

The greatest problem the horse has in figuring out what we want is when we don’t ask the same way each time. It fact I liken it to moving the furniture around in a blind man’s house. Once he knows

where the furniture is, he can move around because it is ‘consistent’ in its placement. But move the furniture from where it was and the blind man will trip, get hurt, get angry, and whatever else.

Consistency is the key to horse training, and in being consistent you must also be fair to him by making your instructions very black and white. This consistency and fairness must also extend to everything you do with your horse even the simple things such as putting on a halter. Does he throw his head up high enough so you can’t reach it?

This problem could have initially been caused by a bump or poke he didn’t like and now predicts it happening and so tends to avoid. Most behaviour problems in horses is the result of human action.

If we have a horse problem the first thing we need to do is admit we or another human was probably initially the cause. From this mind set we can then begin to unpack what the driving causal factor is and begin to remedy the cause.

A friend of mine recently dealt with a family with a new horse. I believe this was the family’s first actual horse that they owned. When they first got him, they threw the saddle on, put on the bridle, and jumped on and started riding. The horse very quickly began to blow up, buck and became difficult to catch and saddle. This continued until they couldn’t even get close enough to halter or unhalter the horse.

In order to develop a solution my friend had to take apart the puzzle and put the pieces back where they belonged. This took time a this was obviously a traumatized horse, and it is common that the amount of resistance is generally proportional to the intensity of the trauma. So it is important to realize in attempting to address the problem that it can take time and it is essential to resolve yourself to the fact that it takes as long as it takes.

That’s where the patience of job comes in handy, as some horses take longer than others, just like humans no two horses are the same.

Remember we are trying to undo a very well rehearsed habit in the horse and need to reprogram his reaction. There is no prize for finishing first, the prize is finishing with a horse that is happy to relate to us and work with us.

When my friend first started working with this horse, the horse was so resistant that it would come and go as the work progressed. Interestingly my friend who is generally a very vocal person did very little talking whilst working the horse. Most of the instructions given to the horse were the result of body language, body movement and gentle ropes.

There are times when the horse starts to come around and then backs off as if saying ‘no’ but this is where patience and perseverance comes in to go back and continue to asked in a non treating manner in order to teach the horse a better way. It is through perseverance and patience that finally at the end, both horse and trainer accomplish what most needed to be done.

There’s this myth that horse trainers can walk out to a horse, whisper something to them, and suddenly the horse magically responds exactly how the trainer wants. This is a myth, but there are trainers who get exceptional results from patience and perseverance, and a willingness to communicate with the horse in their language, and take the time it takes.