3 simple steps to help your horse understand what you want!
1. Assess why he’s not doing it...
There are a number of reasons a horse won’t do something, he could be scared, he might not understand what you want, he could have had a bad experience before, he might not be motivated to do what you want, he might be having trouble doing it.
Understanding why your horse doesn’t want to do something is key to solving the problem. If it's something he's never done before then understanding how to teach him is going to be key, if you haven't taught a horse to do that task before then get some help from someone who has.
Understanding your horses emotions and using appropriate strategies can also be really important to achieving your goals...
For example, if your horse is scared to go into the trailer, then using food to get him on is unlikely to help. Building his confidence getting on and off the trailer will almost certainly be more beneficial.
Conversely if your horse is unmotivated and likes his grub, then food can be enormously helpful!!
Lastly if your horse is in pain or discomfort then no amount of training is going to completely solve the problem.
2. Break it down into steps...
Once you know the reason why your horse doesn’t want to do something and assuming that it's not pain or discomfort then the next stage is to break down the task into steps and apply the appropriate strategy to each step.
Let’s continue with our trailer loading example, my first step in teaching a horse to load is to see if they lead well and understand how to walk forward from gentle pressure from the headcollar.
Next step, can they walk up to the trailer calmly, next step can they get on the ramp, and so on until they can walk onto the trailer happily. Once they can walk onto the trailer and stand happily I can then begin to teach them about being closed in and travelling.
3. Teach your horse each step until he can do it all...
Pretty much any task can be broken down in this way, ridden tasks as well as ground tasks. Sometimes you'll work on one step only to find that you've lost another one, keep making sure each thing is understood before moving on to the the next and then check back to make sure the basics are still in place. If something unexpectedly falls apart then go back and check all your pieces.
The key to making it all work is to make sure that your horse understands and is confident about each step.
Before trying any training technique it is important to rule out pain or discomfort. Saddle fit, teeth, back, hoof balance and lameness issues should all be checked by a qualified professional before applying any training.
If you have questions or need idea's to help with a specific problem feel free to get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Lyla has been helping riders and their horses in the UK, USA and Europe for over 10 years. She has prepared horses for crowds of over 6,000 people with no calmers or ear plugs for venues including Birmingham NEC, Aintree, Bury Farm EC and Hartpury.
Lyla specialises in horse psychology and behaviour problems with a specific interest in dressage and has worked with horses from grass roots to Grand Prix across the UK and Europe including international competitors and Olympians from Spain, the US, Canada and the UK.