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Terry Myersby Terry Myers

Have you ever truly thought about what your horse is thinking? Ever thought about how they interpret their world? Growing up, people used to tell me that to be a good horseman; you have to think like a horse. But yet, no one ever would tell me how a horse thinks. Today, we have all kinds of horse psychology books and videos published by the well educated and the not so well educated. So I’m going to give you my view point from experience (no college degree here, just scars from the school of hard knocks). In past articles, I frequently referred to the rider’s instincts. Hope you liked those articles, because we are going to talk about that again, but this time from the horses’ perspective.

Horses learn by repetition. They need the same thing done over and over before they understand your expectations. They also have an amazing ability to see things in great detail, hence their great ability as wild horses to see the slightest movement or change in the landscape to detect danger, as part of their self-preservation. Where we humans mess up, we don’t see things in great detail and we focus too much, missing the details. So when we think we are training our horse and think we are training an aspect over and over, because of our lack of attention to detail, we actually are not doing the same motions in repetition. We are actually sending all kinds of mixed messages. For example, the other day I was giving a riding lesson and told the rider to pick up their inside rein and ‘feel’ it. When the horse gave their nose, I told the rider to let go, teaching their horse to give to the rein pressure. Then I told the rider to do that exact same thing another 10,000 times (to teach their horse to give). What do you think the chances are that the rider will pick up the inside rein in exactly the same way and release the pressure at exactly the point that the horse give to the pressure? Repetition and attention to detail are the keys to training your horse.

Here is your horse’s view point…
(Trigger says…) Oh geez, here comes (insert your name) again. He’s going to put that big bit in my mouth again and it’s gonna be ‘kick to go and pull to whoa’. Why doesn’t he understand that by jerking on me to make me put my head down, I brace in my throat latch and my jaw. It makes my shoulders feel tense and my front feet are killing me. If they keep jerking me down and making me do that stupid hop at the lope, my hocks are gonna need injected before long.

The human translation…
Be more aware of your horse’s movement, rather than always focusing on their head. Learn how to make your horse light in the bridle and drive them into the bit, so they can use their hind quarters and avoid being forehand heavy. Stop focusing on your horse’s head, and start being aware of their body and the rhythm of their feet. When the horse is correct in their body, their feet (stride) will soften. When they are driving with their hind quarters, they pick up their back to do so. They by product of this collection is to drop their head.

Another viewpoint from your horse…
(Trigger says…) You sure do pull on me a lot. You pull the reins, you pull on the lead rope and you pull on the lunge line. I am guessing that you want me to pull back, since that’s all you do to me. Get a clue, I’m bigger and stronger, so I can out pull you.

The human translation…
Horses learn by the release of pressure. Using the lightest pressure necessary to accomplish your task, then knowing when to reward your horse by releasing the pressure is key to just about all training and riding. Reins, lead rope and lunge line should be held like you are holding hands with your girl friend, boy friend, spouse or other significant person. Using a lightness of hand will help you feel the horse, increasing pressure only as necessary. When you need to use more pressure, use a bump; never pull! Same goes for leg pressure.
We’ve said this in the past. When you think about people and horses, many of their instincts are exactly the same. The exception is that horses cannot reason in order to change their habits; people can. With humans supposedly being the smarter species, we have to learn to adjust our instincts to be able to work with the horse’s instincts. Sometimes when you are having a problem and starting to get angry or frustrated with your horse, you need to stop, get off your horse and think about what you are going. Try to think from the horse’s perspective.

Terry Myers is a national clinician and champion horse trainer with a depth of knowledge developed from over 45 years in the horse industry. Myers has been a popular clinician at multiple expos in the U.S. and Canada. To learn more about Myers’ Ride-In-Sync Horsemanship methods as well as clinic and training services available, visit Myers at www.tmtrainingcenter.com and on Facebook.

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