Horses build confidence by getting it right, not by being corrected. My mentor,Diane Sept, teaches we should, "Conduct ourselves in a manner that commands respect." That of course does not suggest you "boss" your horse around. In fact it proposes you hold yourself in a manner that can be counted on to be reliable, consistent. Just as we appreciate certain boundaries, guidelines or structure and familiar procedures, so do horses. Even if you study the wild horses you'll see they have their routines that vary little. And on a more humorous note, look at your own pastures or padlocks and you'll see the routes they take are well worn paths. They are comfortable, confident knowing what, where, when and how. So are we.
|Kessy loves her trails through the woods|
So we should take that basic tenant in confidence building and apply it to our relationship with our horses. The little things we do each time we interact with our horse should be consistent. It's not fair to the horse for a person to sometimes act one way and other times act differently. It only causes confusion for the horse and will prevent confidence from taking root. Varying behavior and posture by the person will cause the horse to make mistakes while trying to guess what is expected of them, for which the person may be inclined to discipline. And discipline chips away at confidence.
We've all seen folks jerk the lead rope and yell at their horse for stepping on their feet, or rubbing, or stopping or any number of things. What if every time that horse had been led anywhere the person acted exactly the same way and the horse had the confidence to know what was expected of her, and no discipline was necessary. I'll also suggest here that if a horse steps on a person's feet, it might be the person who needs the discipline, not the horse.
Consistency builds confidence. If every time a horse is led through a gate she is asked to stand and wait quietly, and once through the gate is gently turned back to face the gate, asked to lower her head to remove the halter, then released, she will know what to expect every step of the way, and will never need discipline. If the person sometimes allows the horse to dance through the gate, hold her head high and step about while removing the halter, and other times is expected to "behave" the horse will be confused, lack confidence and worry about what comes next. And most likely the person will feel the urge to, "discipline," which further chips away at confidence.
That little example should follow through in everything we do with our horses. The way we approach learning new things together should always be the same. Allow the horse the time she needs to make sense of the new adventure, maneuver or challenge. Celebrate and build on the positive, ignore the negative, and the negative will go away.
|Kessy has the confidence to stand quietly at our mounting platform.|
Confidence is very important to a horse. And your relationship. And consistency builds confidence.
Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry