10 Basic Principles of Good Horsemanship
There is no magic recipe to being a good horse trainer. Most people can learn to be brilliant horse trainers with a knowledge of learning theory and by following a few simple principles which ensure a good horse/handler relationship and good communication.
10. Always Be Patient
To be a good horse trainer you must be very patient, both with the horse and with yourself. Frustration over the horse’s behaviour or training will only result in the training becoming negatively affected. During training, an inner sense of calm is always necessary, even if the training is not going as well as desired. If you are patient with the horse he will get to the end result eventually. However, if you lose patience with the horse, the relationship and trust between the horse and handler will be diminished.
9. Have Empathy for the Horse
Have empathy for the horse, try to understand how he views and feels about the training. Try imagining yourself in the horse’s shoes – would you understand or enjoy the training? As humans, we have a list or picture of what we want from the horse, but the horse does not have this knowledge unless he is trained in a clear manner.
When training the horse, ask yourself whether you would understand what was being ask of you, if you didn’t know the expected
outcome of the training. The horse will rarely misbehave if he truly knows what is desired of him, and as long as what is being asked of him is considered to be safe and beneficial to his survival. Good training will ensure that the horse co-operates with the handler because the horse considers it to be beneficial and safe to do so. If the horse isn’t doing as asked, put yourself in the horse’s place. Is the horse frightened or confused by the handler or its environment?
Or has he simply not been given enough time to learn what is desired of him? If he doesn’t understand what is being asked of him, then try to find a different way to ask, rather than just asking louder or applying more pressure, which is the equivalent of shouting at a foreign person in English. Being able to see the training from the perspective of the horse allows us not only to forge a better relationship with him, but also to understand why he behaves as he does.
8. Physical Violence and Excessive Force Should Never be Used! There is never any excuse to use physical violence, or excessive force, to get the horse to comply with the demands of humans unless, as I stated earlier, you are in grave danger and have no other option available to you. However, other than in these very rare events, the means never justify the ends if training techniques that use fear and/or pain have been utilised in the horse’s training. No result is so important that it justifies violence or excessive force in horse training, and thus compromises the horse’s welfare and well-being. There are effective ways of dealing with unwanted behaviour from the horse without resorting to violence.
There are only three results that occur when a horse is treated with brutality:
• the horse breaks down and becomes robotic as he learns that he is helpless • the horse will retaliate with extremes of aggression • the horse becomes fearful and flighty.
None of these results will develop a relationship between horse and handler that is based on mutual trust, pleasure and co-operation. No part of training should be physically or mentally damaging to the horse. A horse that works out of fear of consequences is not a willing partner, but a slave.