“You’re a Naughty Horse!”

Do you say / think “You Naughty Horse” when your horse does something wrong?

The foundation of good ground handling relies heavily on attitude toward your task. Two common attitudes I come across in one way or another is ‘blame’ and ‘timid’. If you blame your horse (imagine saying “you naughty boy/girl”) for a movement you will become unpredictable or inconsistent, and will soon find your horse becomes either nervous, aggressive or non responsive. If you are timid when asking for your horse’s correct movements, then your horse is likely to take liberties such as walking away from you or barging over you. I also come across handlers that don’t correct their horse on the ground, which again can lead to unwanted behaviour.

I would never call these attitudes ‘bad’ because most people are just not sure why or how. If we learn why horses do what they do (experience), what to do about it (feel) and when (timing), we as handlers will become calm, consistent and decisive (CCD). Horses love these sorts of people. This would be my definition of good horsemanship!

There are really only two reasons a horse gives unwanted behaviour – they either don’t understand or it’s easier for them not to do what we want. Unwanted movements are those which are not asked for and are nervous, inconsistent and indecisive e.g. fidgeting, baulking, stiffening rearing, bucking etc. Note these movements are not ‘wrong’ but they are reactions to you or the environment. Wanted movements are those that are asked for and given in a calm, consistent and decisive (CCD) manner.

It is plain to see that the link to good groundwork and well mannered horses is CCD so how do we move forward? Take an honest look at yourself and try answering these two questions:

1) Do you step backwards when lunging at a trot on a 3 to 5 metre circle? If the answer is ‘yes’ you will be being timid and therefore your horse may think they can push you around.

2) Do you find yourself saying “You naughty boy/girl” or “Why are you doing that?” a lot and acting with that in mind? If ‘yes’ you will be focusing too much on what your horse is doing and not on what is required of you as a handler, therefore your aids won’t always be the same and you will be hard for the horse to understand.

If you answered ‘yes’ to either or both of these questions than you first need to get an understanding of horse behaviour, which is a subject in itself. Then you need to establish some rules, such as protecting your personal space.

Make sure to familiarise yourself with the content of the Pre Training Knowledge section of the Your Horsemanship programme then visit the Personal Space lesson – this is a great place to start re establishing yourself as a calm, consistent and decisive leader.

Image courtesy of Getty Images.

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