TRUST : (An emotional bank account)
To build trust in a horse it is worth having pictured in your mind a bank account. By engaging in games with your horse that encourage him to trust in your decisions you are making deposits in his trust account. Every reward he gets raises that capital with interest.
The confidence you build will be stored in his mind indefinitely and will be there for you to draw upon. In a good relationship where the bank account is healthy you will find potentially traumatic situations can be solved easily as your horse will put his faith in your decision making i.e. a particularly large or difficult jump, a river crossing, loading, riding alone or deviating from a group.
Many horse problems stem from a low balance or even a debit balance in the account. If your relationship is based on fear (i.e. you have to bully your horse into doing as you ask) you are forever withdrawing trust from the account and in time your horse will show symptoms of that poor account, he will become nappy, difficult to load, refuse to jump, become fearful of things that he never used to, water, plastic bags, traffic. Vocabulary of this owner is usually limited to what that horse needs is a good crack with the whip, thatll make him do it
On the other hand lacking in assertiveness also leads to problems, as you ask nothing of your horse that would develop your relationship. In other words you make no deposits into the account that are meaningful to your horse. This relationship is characterised by an overly sentimental attitude, a pet mentality, the owner acts as if the horse is an infant child or a pet dog. You identify this attitude through the vocabulary of the owner
He wanted a gallop so we ran all the way home.
He wont load I think hes frightened of dark areas, the noise of the ramp, etc
I know hes naughty but I dont mind. He doesnt mean it
Oh, he must like you. (Usually when youve just loaded their horse for them.)
Although with horses that have been in the red for some time it is necessary to do some ground work to rebuild the balance of trust, with most it is a matter of changing your habits. Become imaginative in your riding and with your time spent around your horse, be assertive not aggressive. Pay more attention to your relationship, encourage, reward (not titbits), introduce new things and, be patient.
Shane Dowinton, of Horizon Horseback Adventures has been using round pen techniques and natural horsemanship methods for over 15 years.
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Updated: October 2005.