That's REAL important, by the way. If your horse gets hurt doing things you ask him to do he's not gonna be a very obedient friend. Can you blame him? Anyway, before you ask your horse to do something remember to pet him as he approaches the object in question. For instance, if you're teaching him to walk on paper and he eventually walks up to it be sure to pet him because it reassures him. I've seen too many people get mad at their horse because the horse stopped or wouldn't move once the scary object seized his mind. Then they'd kick the horse's ribs to try and get 'em going forward or cuss or whatever. Pretty soon, the horse has associated the scary object or task with punishment. The next time he's asked to do the same thing he remembers pain and punishment. Then things begin to spiral out of control and you have a horse that's easily spooked, tense, and nervous. Instead, one must pet and reassure him. Give him good feelings about doing what you want. So like I said a minute ago, if you were teaching your horse to navigate over, say, a ditch then begin with finding his comfort zone preferably while on the ground. Then you can do it from the saddle later. I like to use a lunge line to do an exercise like this.
Once I've taught my horse to move the direction I point I can then safely send him over obstacles on the ground. When I taught my horse Blaze how to cross a small ditch she definitely wouldn't do it while in the saddle. So, I went back to the basics and got her to do it from the ground. While attached to the lead rope, I'd point right and she'd move right. I inched her closer and closer to the ditch. I watched her eyes watching the ditch. She knew it was there but she didn't want to step over it. Then I'd change my angle to be more towards the ditch. Then she'd stop just before the ditch. She'd put her head down, snort, contemplate going over it, and so on. I didn't push her to jump. I didn't yell at her for stopping. I didn't get behind her and make all kinds of noise to get her to leap over the ditch. Nope. I just let her check it out. We had all the time in the world. She knew I wanted her to cross it but she wasn't quite sure about doing it just yet. So after she decided not to I lunged her around and made her work a little bit. Then I pointed her back to the ditch. Same thing. She snorted, sniffed, and contemplated. I'd talk to her in a pleasant tone and would say, "Go ahead. Let's see it. It won't hurt you." Just as an aside, those are the words I use while riding a horse and he sees or hears something scary. It's part of building their confidence and getting them understanding that when I say "it's not gonna hurt you" they get more comfortable with the idea that it won't hurt them.
Eventually, she crossed over the ditch. And when she did I made a BIG DEAL out of it. Petted her a lot. Told her what a good girl she was, threw her a birthday party...okay...so I didn't throw her a party. But I let her know she did great.
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- Fall '15
- American films, 2007 singles, Horse training, Mr. Horse