The following is an excerpt from a blog I came across recently in which the writer was offering suggestions for how to handle a a horse who won’t stop.
“Don’t treat him gently, thinking you can avoid the problem or dare to think he’s doing it because he’s frightened! He’s doing it because he’s a bully. Treat him like we should treat all bullies. Stand up to him. …
All the time you’re doing this your legs should be kicking. Forget about looking refined. This is war! You are up there to prove a point. You have made a decision to crack this habit and you need to kick on through it.”
The post ends with this statement:
“Remember that brute force will never work but for all problems there is always a solution. WE just haven’t found it yet.”
Well, I agree with the blog writer on one point – brute force will never work. But it seems that her idea of brute force and mine are very different.
There are 3 things with which I disagree with the writer:
- “He’s doing it because he’s a bully.” A horse’s main priority is his safety. When he feels threatened or even suspects the potential for danger, his first defence is flight. If he feels he can’t run away, then he’ll fight. Mental stress as well as physical pain have the same effect. If your horse doesn’t understand, feels pain or stress of any kind, he will be provoked into defensive behaviour like bolting, bucking, rearing, striking, kicking out, etc.
- “Your legs should be kicking.” Kicking a horse makes no sense to me. First of all, it makes your seat unstable, creates tension in your body and causes you to pull on the reins. Second, it does not give any clear signal to your horse of what it is you want him to do. Good riding requires the rider to have an independent seat and quiet hands as well as the ability to give clear aids at the right time. This requires suppleness and balance so that you have the ability to feel your horse.
- “This is war!” I want to have a partnership with my horse not be at ‘war’ with him (or any horse). The foundation of the training scale is relaxation. My goal is to eliminate resistance by helping my horse to be calm, relaxed and free of tension. Kicking with the mindset of ‘winning the battle’ is counter productive. It creates tension in both the rider and the horse.
The bottom line is this, if your horse is doing something you don’t want him to do or isn’t doing something you do want him to do, it isn’t because he is stubborn, stupid or bad in any way. It is because he:
- doesn’t understand
- is frightened or in pain
- it just doesn’t make sense to him
- isn’t physically or mentally able to do what you are asking of him.
A good rider – a good horse person – who has empathy for the horse – will take the time to figure out what is getting in the way and fix it. Even if that means changing something about themselves.
What do you do when your horse does something you don’t want or doesn’t do something when you ask?
What other great questions or suggestions do you have? Please leave me a comment and share this post so others can benefit. Enjoy your journey!