Working with a difficult horse can be challenging. It does help to know the horse’s background as to why he isn’t quite cooperative about certain things, but if that is not possible, they never lie, and will make it clear what they will or will not do. More often than not it is because we pushed our agenda on them and did not try to make it comfortable or appealing to them.
For example, trying to get a 1000+ pound horse into a horse trailer can have disastrous results if they do not want to go anywhere near it. They outweigh us and most certainly can overpower us. So in order to get him to do what we want, we need to look at the situation through his eyes and make it comfortable for him. Success comes when we get him to want to do what we ask. It can be a long process, but if one is committed to bringing about results, persistence pays off in the long run.
Horses need patience. Many times we think that something will take maybe fifteen minutes to accomplish, but it turns out taking longer. If we have the mind frame that something will happen in a short time, the horse usually has other ideas and it will take all day. To make it work, we need to approach a task with the mindset that we have all day to do it. It really helps if there is no time schedule that needs to be met. Put aside everything else and focus on the horse. Once that can be done, be assured that positive progress can be made. But do not be discouraged if it takes days, weeks, months, or even years to make a significant difference as some horses may have been so traumatized.
A horse is not born mean. Given the choice, he would rather flee from something that scares him; but if that is not possible, he will try to fight back to survive. A really good technique to use with him is the concept of advance and retreat. We can push him away from his comfort zone, only so much that he starts to feel slightly uncomfortable, but then take the pressure off before he feels the need to protect himself. Each time, increase the pressure as he becomes more accustomed to it and starts to relax.
Giving the horse the option to choose is beneficial to the training process. Ask the horse to do a simple task, such as standing quietly ground-tied. Leave him alone and go about your business. If he decides he would rather not stand, put him to work, walking him forward a few steps, backing up a few, and repeat a few times. Then stand him up again and leave him alone. After a few times of “being put to work,” he will realize that it is much more pleasant to stand quietly. And there you have it, mission accomplished.
Each horse is different, and in order to bring out the best in each one, we need to read them how they react to certain things. If a horse is claustrophobic, it will take a little bit longer to get him to realize that going into a horse trailer isn’t such a bad thing than with one who is perhaps a bit stubborn. Work with the horse, and not against him, and you will find you will have a willing partner.
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