“If it thinks like a horse and acts like a horse, it must be a horse.” That is how my horses think of me. I am the alpha horse. This may sound a little far fetched to some, but it all relates to understanding horse psychology. The horse has a herd mentality; fight or flight response to fear; and (believe it or not) an analytical choice making capability. It is our job as trainers, equestrians and handlers to help the horse know that:
1) I am the head of the herd;
2) Fight or flight is not an option;
3) Lets make the right choice.
The herd mentality is part of the horse’s instinct, so don’t try to fight it. Learn to work with your horses strong connection to herd psychology and your horse will follow you anywhere (link Monte Roberts- Joining Up). Much of understanding and responding to a horse’s action or non action is done through body language. For every action there is a reaction, even from non action. (link Clinton Anderson philosophy). My body language tells my horses not to touch the hay until I put it down and respect my space. Or, more importantly to the horse, I will scratch you on the right spot just like your pasture buddies, but let me decide when. ( link Tellington Jones TTouch)
Fight or flight is the horse’s immediate survival response to threats. Once the horse understands there are no threats and totally trusts the person in charge they are steadfast and loyal. On the other hand, if a horse has initiated a fight or flight response, danger is imminent. This is the moment when most serious injuries to both handler and horse occur. Training methods such as Downunder Horsemanship (see link Clinton Anderson Ground work) can help horses overcome their fears and control their reactions to unpleasant encounters.
Guiding a horse to think rather than react is basically what horse training is about. Training is also repetition and continuing to building on a solid foundation. Helping the horse understand that we are asking him to make a choice is the beginning of foundation building. After the correct choice has been repeated several times the horse files the information away into the automatic response area of his brain. The thinking part is replaced with “auto pilot”. An example: When initially working the horse in the round pen, one of the first lessons we teach the horse is to turn to the inside (middle) of the round pen when changing direction. Turning to the outside or towards the rail is not acceptable. Once the horse has repeated the correct method of turning to the inside a sufficient number of times, the thinking part of his brain gets tired of always making a choice and the automatic response will be “turn to the inside”.
To fully understand or apply these 3 above mentioned insights into Horse Psychology visit the web site links provided. Further discussion can carry on through the blog page located on this web site.