Insanity in Horse Training

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over & over again & expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

This quote should be posted in every riding barn in the country.  How many times have you heard coaches giving the same instructions over and over to the same student on the same horse and continuing to get the same result?  For example, the horse that counterbends through a corner or spooky part of the arena.  The coach instructs the student to “get him off your inside leg.  Kick him.”  Often, a whip and/or spurs are used to back up the leg.  The result … a counterbent, unbalanced, inverted, stressed horse and a frustrated rider (and, probably, a frustrated coach, too).  Using this example, lets look at why the horse is counterbent to begin with.

As a prey animal, the horse’s main goal today is to remain alive until tomorrow.  His safety & security are paramount.  His natural instinct is to moveshis body away from perceived danger.  Who knows what danger lurks in the long grass beside the riding ring or behind the standards stored in the corner.  He certainly doesn’t.  As he counterbends his body to move away from the “danger”, the person on his back is pushing and kicking and “biting” him pushing him into the danger.  Very scary & stressful to the horse.  Over and over the rider tries the same technique.  More and more the horse is convinced that corner is a bad place to be.  It just feels bad to him with all the stress being created in his body and, therefore, in his mind.

Lets try a different scenario.  The horse counterbends at the scary corner.  The rider takes that counterbend and leg yields the horse through the corner.  The horse perceives the rider to be taking him away from danger.  This behaviour is much better aligned to his need for safety and security.  Each time his rider helps him move through the scary corner while keeping his body in a relaxed frame (level headed and balanced), the horse feels better.  Until, finally, he feels relaxed and safe enough to allow the rider to take him through the corner with the true bend.  Through this simple exercise – by trying something different – the rider has built trust with his horse.  Or, you can continue following the other training method – over and over again.  But, we all know where that leads!

Ride with Confidence!


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