We all find a fascination with horses for different reasons. Some just think they are beautiful. Others are in awe of the power they possess and use so gently. If you have ever seen a small child with a horse you understand the true gentleness of these large animals. Horses have always treated me honestly. When they didn’t understand I could see the confusion and adjusted my training to help them better understand what I wanted them to do.
When a “problem” horse comes into training they always tell us exactly why they have the problem and where it started. People often find it difficult to talk about their problems, concerns, fears, and doubts. A horse is always open and honest in their ability to be read and understood. They only develop “problems” from their upbringing and environment. We must be willing to see beyond the “problem” to truly understand their confusion and distrust. Usually just taking them back to the beginning and starting again with their training helps many horses to overcome their problems. Other times finding the true block is necessary. These horses have had major traumas in their lives and extensive work is necessary to get them over these obstacles. In my experience of working with well over 1,000 horses there have only been a couple that could not overcome their traumas and I could not help them.
When you work with horses and come across a block first look to yourself. Are you being clear about what you are asking for? Are you being patient and helping them to understand what you want? Are you being consistent with your training and asking for the same things the same way every time? Each time you start having problems with your horse please stop and ask yourself these simple questions. Then put yourself in your horse’s shoes. If you were the one doing the learning would you understand what is being asked of you? Is the horse truly capable of the action you want from them at this time? Did you miss a step in the lesson plan or do you need to go back and reinforce the previous lessons better? Always be consistent and build on what your horse has already learned. You must also keep in mind the end result you are working towards. Break it down into simple steps and teach each of those steps so that your horse understands completely before taking the next step. Remember when you were in school and how you felt when you were a step behind the class and didn’t understand. Frustration, fear, anger, confusion. Do any of these emotions sound familiar when you were in school or trying to learn something?
I hope these ideas help you when you are working with your horses and with other people. Never be afraid to put yourself into the shoes of someone. It is the only way to truly understand how they are feeling and how you will help them to overcome a problem or learn something new. Thank you kindly for listening to this old cowboy. Use patience, understanding, and respect everywhere in your life.
Kelly & Heidi Adams have been in the horse industry since 1978. Over the years we have been blessed with exceptional horses, clients, and friends. The lessons we have learned we share with you here.