RBEI MASTER COURSES: EQUINE MANAGEMENT: PSYCHOLOGY 7
Relationship Based Equitation is very much about what is happening or not happening mentally.
This is the engine room where horses learn and where actions come from. This is where our knowledge begins with horses.
Whether or not a horse is confident with things comes down to whether he can mentally rely on you to feel safe.
If a horse trusts his rider he will lead the way, be so bold and confident, even if young and inexperienced.
How a horse behaves is not relevant to experience, but current relationship.
To train a horse we need to build a fair and respectful relationship then the horse will do anything for us at any time, the actual 'thing' being irrelevant.
The opposite approach is to individually repeat an action with a horse and expect it will learn this way. This is why people train horses for 6 months and the horse is still nervous, flighty and rebellious. And we can build a relationship of trust with a horse in 5 minutes then achieve the thing it took 6 months to achieve the other way and our horse will be relaxed, happy and do the job on his own without being controlled!
The current methodology out there today creates rebellion in perfectly lovely horses.
It's not hard to create a rebel. You just control all the time and never give the horse any positive affirmation.
The horse very quickly takes on the "damned if you do damned if you don't attitude", is naughty and gets labelled a rogue.
It's very sad. (It happens a lot with children too).
Treat a horse in the moment, be soft, gentle, fair and kind always and you can NEVER encourage too much. People think if they encourage too much it will spoil the horse. This is not true. If you encourage when a horse is acting badly, THIS spoils a horse. If you encourage when the horse is acting good, this encourages the horse to be good. If you discipline or control a horse when it is behaving well, you cause him to turn from behaving well.
You see it all the time.
A horse is standing still, relaxed, then the handler tries to reinforce and make the horse continue to stand still and so says whoa and controls the horse on the lead defensively, well the horse was already standing still, it should have been praised for it, but now it is getting demanded of, it second guesses what you actually want and starts to shuffle nervously, not understanding what you now want because obviously standing still was not enough, then gets reprimanded for not standing still! This happens ALL THE TIME!
NEVER TELL A HORSE TO DO SOMETHING WHILE IT IS ALREADY DOING IT or it will think you require something further / else that it has not understood. If a horse is doing what you want, give him a pat then headspace. Horses NEED reassurance all the time like children do. You can NOT reassure too much and I have only ever seen better results the more you reassure. It is what is lacking so much in our horse riding and handling.
A common mistake also is making an event of things that shouldn't be so horses develop phobias. A very common one is when people lead horses through a gate and are scared the horse is going to squash them and rush so focus too much on it and pull on the mouth defensively and say whoa repeatedly etc when the horse was already just walking through normally. If you say whoa when your horse is walking and you require your horse to continue walking you are in effect asking him not to listen to you and then in effect he will ignore you in other commands too and lose all confidence in you and in his ability to be able to understand you and start adding random things nervously.
Be very clear. If you want your horse to walk and slow down, say "just slowly" or "easy mate" or something of that nature, but if you say whoa and also use whoa to stop you are effectively asking your horse to ignore you because you are making him walk but asking him to stop, and continuing to walk. Always be aware of how your horse will perceive you.
If you make a big deal of going through a gate and get all jumpy and look over your shoulder at the horse and make it too intense and an event the horse will start to rush every time it goes through a gate because it doesn't understand what you are so nervous about and starts to be fearful because you are and you are confusing him. Simply re-make it a non-event if they have started to rush, meaning, keep a steady walk, hand on neck, look forward, don't change or react, your horse will soon get over it and get confident again.
You also need to be aware of the words you use and their ability to confuse. A classic one is when a horse is nervous saying "I know mate" to it. The word "Know" and "No" sound the same to a horse so in effect they then think you are saying "no" to them and start fidgeting nervously because they are being reprimanded for something and are unsure what.
Pick your words carefully, especially when soothing a horse. "Ok" is often used to start something, so if you want to settle a horse and stand there, and say "it's ok mate" it will think you mean "ok go", start something, start moving and fidgeting and get all confused.
There is also the thing of every time you raise your voice or get loud is when you are scared or something scary is happening. Then your horse starts to read it as a cue and every time someone is loud associates it with fear and scary things and gets very nervous. You can counter this effectively by asking your horse to do a very simple task then praising and cuddling very dramatically and loudly, starting quietly and building louder, so you don't freak them out initially.
What this does is allows the horse to relax when hearing loud noises or rough talking because he no longer associates it with negative things only but also good and so will stop seeing loud talk etc as a cue for bad and relax when people talk loudly or act rough thereafter.
It all boils down to being able to think and weigh up what your horse is thinking which is pretty straight forward most of the time if you take into account the things we have taught you.
The other major variance for all of this is if a horse has had a very recent or large mental trauma / incident and this overrides their thoughts at all times.
An example of this is riding mares that have foals then the foal is taken away. They can't concentrate, sleep and are ballistic inside their head for quite a while. I personally don't see the need for ever ripping a foal off a mother. Weaning can effectively be achieved by placing the mother and foal in a herd environment with a few other horses. Letting them attach and then splitting the group and keeping them side by side with the mare in one group and the foal in the other and then left there for quite a while. Generally it all happens as if it is a non-event and no-one even thinks about what just happened. Ripping a foal dramatically away is unnecessary and causes massive mental trauma to both parties. This riding mare will need lots of cuddles and talking through it all.
There are other slight variables to keep in mind also such as with colts and stallions, how they will be more concerned with what the herd is doing because they carry more responsibility, and some gelding take on this responsibility also, they may also challenge other males and want to fight with them, also, with the lead mare in a herd or group, she will act more dominantly than the others and worry more when taken away from her responsibility in the group etc, but this all comes down to common sense. Lots of pats, cuddles and reassurance overides all.
By understanding how horses think and their psychology you can apply common sense to all instances and come out the other side pretty great. Where things get hairy is where people don't understand horses and the negative effect their actions are having on them and common sense is clouded by methodology. ;)
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