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Allowing Opinions

I used to have a Thoroughbred mare called Maddie. Maddie had VERY strong opinions about being saddled and could buck higher and harder than any horse I’ve met since (she once broke a girth from bucking!). There will be more about her in this series but one of the many lessons I learnt from her was to allow her to have an opinion, resist getting stronger to try and stop her and help her find more productive ways to use her energy (she had lots of it!).


Most of us want our horses to behave, we want them to do what we like to do, be calm and not do anything unpredictable.


Having a horse that listens to you and does what you ask is very important especially in safety situations. However, as we all know, we are not riding a motorbike, we are riding an animal that has his own mind and opinions.


For most of my ridden career I have owned mares. I love mares, and if I look at a group of horses I will nearly always pick out a mare as the one I like the most! Why do I always gravitate to mares? Because I love the fact that they will tell you their opinion! It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I consider part of training to be about convincing the horse that my idea is a good one for them as well!


There’s a famous old saying...


Tell a Gelding - Ask a Mare - Bargain with a Stallion!


So how do you train a horse and allow him to give you feedback? The answer is to ask them to do something and see what their reaction is. Take your time, allow them to show you how they feel and then adjust accordingly.


If a horse has strong opinions then (as Maddie taught me) the answer is not to get stronger yourself.


In my experience getting stronger does one of three things...


1️⃣ Causes the horse to get stronger and more extreme in their reactions

2️⃣ Creates tension

3️⃣ Subdues the horse and kills expression - effectively creating more robotic responses


The answer is to calm the situation down, assess what’s going on.

What can this opinion mean?

  • Horse is confused - doesn’t understand what is required 🤷‍♀️

  • Horse is scared 😦

  • Horse is in pain/discomfort 🤕

Obviously if pain is a possibility then training must stop until the source of the pain/discomfort is found and resolved.


For the other two, if the horse is confused, then breaking down the problem into smaller pieces and making sure your horse understands each piece is the answer. For more information on how to do this read my eBook download here....

If the horse is scared then slow everything down and take more time until your horse builds confidence.


Either way taking time to see and assess your horses responses to a situation is going to tell you so much about how to approach it and get good results. Usually when a horse doesn’t do what we want there’s a reason. Listening to them and working out what that reason is will get you to a resolution calmly and quickly.


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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 lylacansfield@hotmail.com


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Lyla has been helping riders and their horses in the UK, USA and Europe for over 15 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.


See www.lylacansfield.com or email lylacansfield@hotmail.com for more details.


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All training techniques discussed are from experience only, it is impossible to accurately advise on horse/rider combinations without seeing them live. Lyla Cansfield & Equine Mind & Body Training strongly advise anyone considering using any of the techniques discussed to get live help and can take no responsibility for the outcome of applying any of the techniques discussed with or without supervision. Riding is a high risk sport.

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