Uncommon Horse Sense







No Matter what you are teaching the horse, the smaller the steps you place in the learning process, the easier it is for the horse to learn.




 The First Priority In The Horse/Human Relationship

<Second of four articles>


                                    TRUST:  To place confidence in, ENTRUST: To place in ones care or keeping, to permit to go or stay, or do something without fear or misgiving.

     Trust is the first and most important priority in the horse/human relationship.  Without it, respect or communication will not occur.

      Although each horse is an individual with his own unique psychological profile, the natural tendency of the horse is to be suspicious, cautious and defensive, almost to the point of cowardice.  Yet, we have all seen horses jump seemingly impossible cross country courses, or cross snow covered rock slides, solely on trust.  The horse will do this because he trusts his own ability (gained from experience), or the direction of his rider.

      Most people can gentle a horse, few earn his trust.  There’s a difference between gentleness as trust.  Gentleness is a lack of fear of the human combined with respect for his space, trust includes confidence in accepting direction from him.  In the horse’s mind, gentleness is the horse not hurting us, trust is us not hurting the horse.  Therefore, trust allows the horse the courage to step out of his comfort zone, and expand his knowledge and experience.

      Trust is like a bank account, before you can draw on it you must first make deposits.  Here are a few ways you can make deposits in your horse’s “”Trust Account.”  

      Allow the horse the right to make mistakes.  He needs to be free to experiment in order to find out what you are asking him to do.  There’s nothing wrong with the horse making a mistake, so long as you tell him it was a mistake.

      Don’t punish the horse.  If he makes a mistake, just ask him to try again.  Punishment discourages trying.

      Don’t put your horse into “sink or swim” situations.  The consequences of making a mistake should not frighten the horse.

      Give the horse plenty of time. . . time to think his way through a problem … time to relax and understand what he did to get released.  “Take the time it takes, so it takes less time.”

      Be consistent.  The quickest way to lose trust is to constantly changes the rules of interaction.

      Show the horse you trust him.  Most people don’t trust their horse not to hurt them, perform properly.  This results in the “Bigger Bit” philosophy … the use of severe restraints to “Control The Horse.”  (The bit is for communication, not control.))  The “I’m going to hurt you, before you hurt me” philosophy is hardly conducive to a trusting relationship.  Avoid this by not putting yourself into a “Sink or Swim” situation.  Why should the horse trust you, if you don’t trust him?

      Become more aware of your surroundings.  The horse is acutely perceptive of approaching danger and changes in his environment.  This has allowed him to survive for millions of years, and he depends upon the herd to assist in this task.  The more he recognizes your awareness, the more he sees you as a valuable herd member.  Why should he trust your directives, when you didn’t even notice the pack of wolves approaching from behind?

      Cradle this trust carefully, it is the most fragile aspect of the relationship.  Like a fine piece of crystal, it takes a lot of time and skill to produce … and if broken, even the most skilled craftsman can’t restore it to its original condition.

      Next month we will explore the principle of respect, and how it interrelates with trust and communication.