Horse Training 101
(What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger?)
If you think I'm referring to the rider you'd be wrong.
I'm referring to the horse and will make an attempt to convince you that you can never win a battle with a horse. You may think you've won but instead your horse has won a golden opportunity to figure out your weakness becoming more aware of his strengths and I assure you he'll plan on using them the next time the two of you meet.
So you may wonder what you are to do?
My advice is to find another way to deal with whatever it is that's not working. The biggest problem is your horse doesn't speak your language so you must find a way to bridge the gap and manage to communicate what it is you expect from your mount.
When schooling other people's horses often I find they have been giving their horse mixed signals usually from their body language exhibited by their riding position. Often it's as simple as a rider's hip angle. One such example was my neighbor who came to me one day asking to borrow a crop. Seems her new Andalusian mare only knew how to go backwards. I asked her to demonstrate. She was glad to oblige and I was a bit horrified as she leaned forward pulling on the reins and clicking and kicking the poor horse thinking that was the way to move forward.
I tried to contain my shock over what she was telling the horse and gently explained to her she only needed to open her hip angle, leaning back just enough to put her "behind the motion" and give to the rein with her hands. In a flash her horse jumped forward almost as though she was relieved to be allowed to do so. The poor mare. I felt so sorry for her and how she'd been trying but her rider just didn't speak her language.
You can only imagine the nightmare I would have created if I'd loaned her the crop. So often when our horse doesn't respond in the way we expect we react before thinking over what it is we may be doing wrong and at the same time our horse is discovering our buttons so that the next time they've had it with us they know exactly how to get away with whatever it is they'd rather be doing.
I think the most valuable piece of advice I can give you the next time you're considering battling with your horse is to stop and think for a moment. I think the famous Chris Cox explains it best when he admits frustration from time to time. He says that frustration is his signal that he must be doing something wrong and he stops and doesn't proceed further until he figures out what that thing is. Imagine someone as horse savvy as him and if he recognizes miscommunication can happen how much more possible is it for us to be making some mistake?
You must come from a place of understanding with your horse. If you don't have that where you're currently at in your horse's training then keep going back toward the beginning until you find it. Once you're at a place where you and your horse are on the same page than start building again. If you find yourself hitting a wall at some point and can't seem to get past it then seek some professional help because the chance is great it's you making some mistake. It will do you no good to continue to fight with your horse over something you're doing wrong.
Horses are quite willing to please us once they know what it is that we want. The least we can do is meet them half way. Having a solid education regarding a horse's language will help. There are many experts and methods out there to enable you to better communicate with your horse, you just have to find the one that works for you. Some of the better ones I've found or at least the ones that resonate with me are anything Linda Tellington Jones teaches, Chris Cox and Clinton Anderson also make a great deal of sense. You can find their DVDs everywhere but if you can get to one of their live clinics you're way ahead of the game.
Just remember, there are NO bad horses, only bad riders!