Discipline in horse training


There is a (very strong) parallel between training horses and raising children – the approach is EXACTLY the same.

Recently I’ve had the (very unpleasant) experience of being involved with a few bombastic, arrogant people. These people have a few characteristics in common:

  1. They believe in bulldozing their way over people.
  2. They don’t listen to other people’s opinion, therefore they don’t learn ANYTHING from anyone.
  3. They have NO ability to teach anyone ANYTHING, because they don’t make sure the other person understands what they are trying to explain. How fast will they learn to fly an aeroplane if they are being taught for three minutes?
  4. People in this group are normally not very intelligent, because intelligent people always realize that they can learn a lot from other people by LISTENING ( or by studying behavioral patterns in the case of horses).

Please pardon a little bit of personal opinion here, but, without ever saying anything, I always say to myself: “ You FOOL, you PATHETIC IDIOT” when I encounter such a person.

When disciplining a horse ( or child), it is essential to be a keen observer and analyst of the horse. In 90% plus of the cases, horses act undesirably, because they don’t understand what is required of them.

The first step should obviously be to explain (CALMY) to the horse what you actually desire of it. Since you cannot communicate with a horse in the same way you do with humans, the trainer should take a lot of time, by certain signs which are being applied consistently, to make his desires clear to the horse. How many horses are not being punished, just because they do not know what the trainer desires? In such cases the trainer is the one deserving the punishment, because he didn’t do HIS job effectively and thoroughly.

Discipline should NEVER be confused with abuse or punishment, but rather by firmly and consistently showing a horse what is desirable and what is undesirable.

Firstly: be CALM and QUIET. Take a FIRM stand, and where possible, stand still. Have you ever noticed how the (sensible, intelligent) parents of disciplined children never make a noise or kick up a lot of dust. These parents STARTED  by explaining very THOROUGHLY what is desired from the child, making sure the child understands very well, then take a FIRM stand on the issue, before they inflict punishment. Smart, intelligent people normally have such a strong personality that it is not necessary to shout or to kick up a lot of dust to make their presence felt, but they make sure they are being taken notice of with authority.

The easiest example to use to explain the principle of discipline, is using a horse which wants to go faster all the time – the impatient type which does not want to stand still or control its speed.

As an example, let’s describe a horse that is hard to mount or hitch and which wants to go faster all the time.

Long lines are very handy to start much of your training processes.

Take the over ambitious horse into an enclosure (if it is available). This horse wants to move off the moment the lines are being untied, or whenever it is being hitched or mounted.

Untie the reins and……………………STAND. Five minutes, ten minutes, an hour. Be QUIET and CALM, RELAXED, but FIRM and CONSISTENT. If the horse gets too excited and looks like it is in danger of rearing and flipping over, allow it to move a little to the left or right, but not further than the length of the reins. Initially it might help to have an assistant rubbing the horse’s head, neck, ears and eyes to help calming it down. If you do talk, let it be softly and soothingly.

Once you have accomplished this goal, you can allow the horse to take a step or  a few steps forward. Stop again, and stand again, a few steps, stand, a few steps, stand. In a situation such as this, it is extremely helpful if the horse has been taught to back. Stand, a few steps, stop, stand for a few seconds, or a few minutes, until the extreme urge to move on has subsided, back, one or two steps forward, and stand. Continue with this for up to an hour if necessary, and for as many days as necessary. Note that YOU determine the pace and YOU make the decision. YOU are in control.

Depending upon your progress, you can proceed to allowing the horse to walk around the fence of the bull pen. The moment it goes too fast, turn it around IMMEDIATELY, but CALMLY AND (VERY) FIRMLY. Let your movements be smooth, calm and FIRM. No noise, no kicking up dust. Initially it may be necessary to turn after one or two steps, many times, but you’ll be amazed how quickly the idea catches on.

Gradually you can extend the distance to five or six steps, ten steps, halfway around the ring, until the horse will control itself on  ALOOSE REIN WITHOUT YOU PULLING ON THE REINS AT ALL .

Next you allow a very slow jog. The moment the horse wants to go too fast, you turn it around and start over until it will just stay on one speed without you holding it back.

Once you have the horse under control in the enclosure, the next step is to repeat the procedure outside.

Mounting or hitching the impatient horse requires exactly the same approach.     

When preparing to mount, you retreat the moment the horse wants to move off. A real impatient horse will want to move off even when you collect your reins, so release the reins as soon as that happens, and start over. In severe cases this may be necessary to repeat for a few days, doing nothing more than collecting the reins and releasing, until the horse assumes that all it is going to do is standing so you can collect and release the reins !!!!!!!!!!! 

Likewise you progress to putting your foot into the stirrup, retreat, or even just take hold of the stirrup with your right hand, and retreat. Every step might cause a recurrence of the problem, but you will find that your progress will become faster all the time, PROVIDED YOU DID THE FIRST STEP PATIENTLY, FIRMLY, CALMLY, CONSISTENTLY AND THOROUGHLY.

Once you have reached the stage where you can sit in the saddle (in severe cases this might take a week or even a few weeks), you can JUST mount and dismount, sitting in the saddle for a while, but not moving off.

When you do move off, you repeat the process you applied in the long lines.

The same principle and technique are applied to hitching the impatient horse. Depending upon at which stage the horse becomes impatient, you stop, retreat and start over, until the horse will stand quietly while it is being hitched, without you holding it back with the reins. A disciplined horse should be able to control itself without being held back.

This is an example of disciplining a horse without any abuse or punishment. No noise, no kicking up dust, no performance. Just calmly, firmly, and in a calculated way. HORSE TRAINING IS PRIMARILY ABOUT CONFIDENCE AND DISCIPLINE.

If you have learned only this in this whole book, it is worth its price a hundred or thousand fold.