If you want to perform well, you need to have the right mental skills. But that doesn’t only count for you as a rider, but it also counts for your horse. Your horse needs to have the right mindset for learning.
How can we make sure our horse has the right mindset for learning?
A very important factor is the level of tension. If the level of tension surpasses the optimal level, the learning capacities of your horse will be diminished due to the release of stress hormones like cortisol.
It works the same way with humans. Cortisol blocks an efficient transfer of information in the brains making it more difficult to think clearly.
When your horse is in a certain situation, it is more likely that you’ll get miscommunication and that he won’t respond the same way to your aids.
That’s something we want to avoid. So, always remember the following:
Your horse will never give a certain response just to annoy you.
A horse only does something wrong when he doesn’t have the knowledge to do the right thing. So you could be giving the wrong aids or your horse doesn’t know how to respond to your aids.
But also external factors can have an influence on your horse, like that your horse is afraid of the surroundings or spooky because it’s windy. Those situations create tension and trigger the natural instinct of your horse.
You can get one out of the following two responses when your horse responds based on his natural instinct.
The first response is that your horse tries to protect himself by taking on a dominant posture becoming pushy and lacking respect, fighting for a position of comfort.
Your horse only does something wrong if he doesn’t have the information to do the right thing.
Or you will have a horse that lacks confidence and responds with flight and fear.
It is important to determine the type of character of your horse from the very beginning.
Because if you are training a dominant, pushy horse by trying to give him reassurance and confidence you are in trouble.
And the same counts if you are correcting a nervous horse to gain respect when he is acting out because of fear.
To find out what type of character your horse has, I have an interesting video for you with Tristan Tucker. You may have already seen this video and thought it was only about leading a horse. But you can also figure out the type of character of your horse by leading your horse.
Tristan: “Generally a quick way to determine what kind of horse you have is easily felt as soon as you take the rope to lead the horse.”
“If he chooses to walk over you and it is difficult to back him away from you to create a respectful space between you and the horse, then generally you have a horse that behaves through being dominant and that lacks respect and knowledge of knowing where to be or where not to be.”
“If you have a horse that wants to back away from everything, turn and run or just run and is easy to back away from you to create space, it’s generally a horse that lacks confidence.”
“He will also need knowledge of the meaning of the the things in our human environment and how to control himself in situations where naturally his instinct tells him to use flight.”
“So when you start training your horse, make sure you know his type of character and adjust the training accordingly.”