RBEI MASTER COURSES: EQUINE MANAGEMENT: PSYCHOLOGY 6
EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION WHEN DISCIPLINING
So with the way horses minds tick in mind, it is critical, to be safe and effectively function with all horses, to build a very good bond and respectful relationship with them primarily, but to also then maintain it by being fair and considerate in our communication.
In all we do with horses we need to communicate what we want to the horse and the horse then needs to be listening in the first place, hear what we are trying to communicate, translate it to figure out what response is required, weigh up whether it's worth listening to and then action it.
So look at your communicating like a scale. A 45 degree sloping hill.
You must always when communicating with a horse be kind, soft, gentle, fair, allow time for the horse to understand what you mean and to translate and act it out. Be patient. This is where you abide all the time as default, the bottom of the slope or scale.
If the horse clearly misbehaves, add the consequence immediately, then refocus again on doing what you were doing and being kind again and gentle. If the horse ups the anti and escalates in it's naughtiness, you go up the scale and increase your consequence to match and so on and so forth until the horse chooses the consequence outweighs the benefits.
Where people go wrong is they are mid scale sitters, ie, they always start half way up the scale, being always gruff, hard and defensive with their horses. Their horses in turn then are always misbehaving because the reaction they get is the same if they're good or bad and they see the person as un-likeable and unfair so will be bad!
Treat the misbehavior, then return to the bottom of the scale immediately, no grudge, no hardness, forgiving in effect the misbehaving after the consequence has been handed out.
So you, working with a horse with a correct and effective code of communication, should look like this:
EG; You're leading your horse along telling him how much you adore him and patting his neck being all gentle and sweet, then he decides to have a nibble at your sleeve. This is not something you want him to do so you immediately make this clear to him however you like ie, No boy no biting, and push his nose away. Then you refocus immediately on walking along patting him again and he thought the little nibble was a bit fun, so he goes in again and nips this time cheekily. You immediately reprimand him with a stronger NO and a finger in his face saying NO NO NO biting! and back him up, then make him walk again as you were, refocusing on being kind and gentle...he has a think as you're going and as he's getting his pats, he thinks, fair enough, and decides he much prefers the pats from you than the backing up etc and carries on without biting. Never tries it again.
IN CONTRAST: Working on your horse with a bad and ineffective code of communication often looks like this:
EG; You're leading a horse along who a friend told you is a biter. So you have the lead short and defensively strong, push him away from you every time he tries to come near and walk slower than normal, pulling on his head.
The horse looks at you and thinks, this ones a bit of a nasty person, don't much like her, not kind or fair to me at all, I've done nothing to make her do this to me, pretty unfair leading me along jerking my head all the time. Might just have a nibble of this one. The person overreacts and makes a big deal about it with more tight jerking of the lead and more attitude and more hardness for the rest of the walk. The horse thinks, this person is really a jerk, I might throw in a really big bite this time, damned if I do and damned if I don't anyway. The person stops, smacks him hard then carries on walking jerking the lead and roughly jerking the horse around for the rest of the trip talking cruelly and in a defensive hard way to the horse the whole way.
The horse is worse the next time they go for a walk, biting more often and harder. It is also in a constant state of nervousness and crankiness.
You must always treat misbehavior as actual momentary behaviour and not hold a grudge.
Even if you know the horse is going to misbehave, act like he's not by starting kind and gentle. Treat the moment, if in the moment the horse is behaving, you are your sweet gentle kind self. If in the moment the horse is misbehaving, you are the up-scaled self, disciplining, then back to the sweet self again.
You must not treat the horse according to previous moments.
You stay at the base of the scale as default always, which is your normal kind, gentle self. Standard. But if a horse misbehaves you gradually increase your discipline until it is enough to deter the misbehaving at that moment. Then return immediately to the nice kind gentle bottom of the scale.
Communication deficiencies are so often highlighted when going to your first show or outing. Your horse is pretty good around home, you let a few little minor manners slide, but it's manageable still.
Then hello you get out into a hyped environment and all of a sudden your horse does not listen to you at all and the little discrepancies turn into danger zones!
You very much need to demand and require 90-100% obedience all the time in the small things if you want to be able to tackle the bigger things.
When handling or riding you need to set very clear boundaries and be consistent in enforcing those boundaries, otherwise if a horse finds you are negotiable on a boundary you've set ie; he is not allowed to bite then sometimes he gets away with it with no consequence he soon learns that everything's negotiable and this could get you into major trouble when you need him to obey fast and he instead tries to argue about it.
You are the parent, you set the rules, you enforce the rules, you don't change the goal post you are 100% consistent, clear and fair.
For those who are just starting out with horses you need to pick only the battles you can win and graduate on-wards from there in baby steps which we can help you with daily here. There is no point for people to tackle riding if they can't lead first.
But no matter what level you and your horse are at you need to establish 100% obedience in each little thing before moving on to the next thing.
So to start with you can set yourself a very easy goal such as leading your horse from A to B, during which time you are to maintain the horse being respectful, listening, being soft and obedient, not pushy, not biting etc,
When you have this established tackle bigger things and so on and so forth, such as riding but only in a walk in a closed in small yard and from a to b. Maintaining the horses manners etc, then move on.
Do not go to another bigger level or thing until you have 100% established obedience in the small things, or you will definitely get into trouble in the big things.
People often think oh we'll be ok to go off down the road, yet they have not created an understanding between themselves and the horse about ground rules, what's expected, how they communicate etc, then wonder why they get into trouble when a car passes and all of a sudden the horse doesn't listen to them.
Always get your communication down pat in the safety of the home paddock before venturing out where your horse can be more distracted easily and your relationship bond will be tested.
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