“Ask for a tiny piece of the work and wait for the answer. If he gives you even a part answer, get happy and hand out praise like it’s free.” Anna Blake, Author and Equestrian
I love watching celebrities come out of their comfort zone on the TV show “Running Wild With Bear Grylls.” One of the most recent ones was Courteney Cox, who unashamedly cried and screamed while zip-lining across rivers and scaling down steep cliffs. You could feel her anxiety through the television screen. She would balk and hesitate but she ultimately trusted Bear and did exactly what he said. With each victory you could see her eyes light up and her attitude feed off Bear’s sincere and heart-felt praise after each accomplishment:
“Well done, you!”
He made her feel proud of herself, good about herself. Even though each challenge increased in difficulty, she became more eager and willing to listen to Bear and execute his instructions.
I had one trainer who told us not to praise a horse repeatedly unless he REALLY earned it so it would REALLY mean something, but I agree with Anna Blake. If your horse deserves it, lavish praise on him. Communication back and forth between horse and human is often misread and it’s easy to tell when my Sportie is struggling to understand what I am asking of him. He’ll attempt this and then that, as if he’s saying “Is this it?” “OK how about this?” When he finally does get it and I immediately give him an enthusiastic “Good boy!” along with release of pressure and a neck scratch, there is a notable softening in his stance as if he’s thinking, “Yay, I did it!”
Who doesn’t want to feel they’ve done well? If it’s the truth, it costs nothing to tell them so, and pays back big time.