If you have an occasion to watch a professional horse trainer working with or breaking in a horse, it’s not always easy to see what’s happening. Horse trainers don’t use commands like “Sit” or “Stay”, as a dog trainer might do. Horses don’t speak the same language as dogs, or as people. They speak “Horse”, which can be a difficult language to understand and communicate with.
Long-time trainer Ray Hunt explained how he communicated with green horses that he was charged with the task of breaking in. He said it was very simple. It probably was quite simple was for him, but how he communicated made a great deal of sense. What Hunt did when getting a horse to do what he wanted it to do was this: he made it easy for the horse to do the right thing, and hard for the horse to do the wrong thing. A horse’s way of doing things is more often than not attempting to follow the path of least resistance.
In any event, if you plan to spend time working with a horse, Hunt’s method makes a lot of sense. You still have to figure out how to make things easy or difficult for the horse, but once you’ve done that you’ll begin to feel like an expert.
Why does a horse turn when you put pressure (pull) on a rein? It’s simply because it’s easier for the horse to turn and relieve the pressure of the bit, and more difficult to try to fight it. Almost any command you teach a horse goes back to the easy/difficult approach, although there’s much more to it than that.
It’s not always easy to understand what a horse is thinking beyond “easy/difficult”, but in some ways a horse is like a human. If you can convince it what you want it to do is its own idea, it is more apt to do it.
Written by William Savage of Babbling Ink "Outsourcing Professionals United"
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