Many people think that training is something that they could never do themselves. What many horse owners don’t realize is that every single thing you do with your horse is teaching him something. You are a trainer, whether you want to be or not! That is an intimidating idea for some people, so I am (hopefully) going to make it seem a little less scary with this little concept:
Effective training gives your horse two options.
Option A: Your horse does what you are asking him to do and is rewarded by not having to work too hard in getting that reward, which may be release of pressure, a treat, simply letting him stand still, etc.
Option B: Your horse does not do what you want him to do immediately and therefore has to work much harder to come by the reward, until he figures out that Option A is SO much easier for him. For example, you want your horse to lead politely next to you instead of dragging you all over the barn, so you ask him to walk next to you, then stop, which he doesn’t think is something he needs to do immediately, and he yanks you several more feet before deciding to stop. Your response should immediately be to turn around, become large and in charge and make him walk backwards briskly to the spot where you wanted him to stop, then release pressure and let yourself relax to let him know “this is good”. Backing is hard work that requires a lot of muscle, so it is a good way to discipline your horse through hard work without being mean or overbearing. He might pull one or even a few more times, but after this harder option occurring, each time will get better until he does what you want [Option A].
Horses are very smart and very reward driven, so when he figures out that Option A gets a quicker reward, it will become the standard instead of the exception.
- Just remember that you have to respond to anything he does wrong (or right, for that matter!) immediately! Horses have a 3 second window during which they will connect your reaction to their action. After that, anything you do serves no purpose.