Tense Horses Can’t Learn.
Just like you and me, the more tense, nervous or afraid the horse is, the less he is able to learn. It is imperative that both horse and trainer be calm when new skills are introduced in order to build progress through smooth workouts. From the time we put the halter on and begin to prepare the horse for his workout until we remove the halter and leave him to a well deserved rest, we should work around the horse in a well thought out, calm and competent manner. Horses should never think something bad is about to happen. Smooth workouts and competent handling build confidence and trust for both horse and trainer, enabling progress to come at an ever increasing rate.
Horses thrive on consistency. A consistent feeding schedule, a consistent work schedule and consistently applied training techniques all help horses to flourish. Horses learn by repetition, and usually learn new skills easily provided we ask for exactly the same response in exactly the same way, each and every time. This is how horses become confident and responsive. When we ask for the same response in different ways or give the horse conflicting signals, we cause the horse to become confused and unresponsive.
Be The Leader.
In our relationships with our horses, the role of leader, or decision maker, must belong to the human. This arrangement must not be challenged by the horse or abdicated by the human. The rider or trainer controls the horse’s speed, direction and shape, and it is essential to good horsemanship that the horse agrees to this relationship (which is considerably more difficult with some horses than others). As trainers we must be careful not to ask the horse to do something of which he is incapable (either physically or mentally), for the horse will have no choice but to defy us. Once the horse has learned that he can successfully defy the trainer, he may become more and more creative in using his size and strength in refusing to allow the trainer to control his speed, direction and shape.