December 10, 2009
If you frequent many horse forums these days, you will notice a growing trend in the way people think about training horses. Everyone wants their horse to like them, they’re asking how they can form a bond with their horse, and they’re against correcting a horse for almost any reason, but still have questions like “How can I get my horse to let me catch him? When I go into his stall he turns away and won’t let me halter him.”
In response to the question above, which was recently posted on a horse forum, you’ll see advice like: “Always take treats with you.” or “Spend more time brushing your horse and just hanging out with him, that way he won’t think it’s all about work when you go to catch him.” These answers may help you get the halter on the horse. But they do nothing in training your horse to respond positively to you when you approach him with a halter.
The correct answer for the problem at hand would be to use that halter rope in your hand the next time the horse turns his hind end toward you. Swing it, swish it, pop the horse on the tail end with it. But get him to face you and give you the respect you should be demanding from him. But look out if you post that for an answer on today’s horse forum! You are asking for a flaming, because the current trendy horse owner does not want to hear anything about hitting, swatting, or demanding anything from a horse. We’re just a little too politically correct these days to believe in anything close to corporal punishment.
The real misunderstanding here is that it is not punishment to throw a cotton lead rope at the rear end of a horse that is misbehaving. It’s called training. And a horse trainer who knows horses will confirm that a horse is far better rewarded by the release of pressure than by any little sweet treat you might carry in your pocket. This is the way horses learn, they are programmed to react to situations that please or displease them. Bribing them with sugar cubes might put a band-aid over the issue, and the horse might let you catch him. But training the horse to look to you for direction, to give you the attention you deserve, and to respect your wishes as to where his feet are when you are around him will take you miles beyond just getting the halter on the horse.
When you train a horse, you are setting him up to handle situations that come up in the future. Getting him to respond to you when you approach him, and training him to move his feet where you want them is not accomplished by petting him, brushing him, and giving him lots of treats. You have to train him to respect you.
Now, the actual catching part of it goes something like this: You walk into the corral or stall, the horse turns his hind end to you and faces the corner. You say something to the horse, maybe a “ck-ck-ck” sound to signal he should turn around and look at you or else. And then you swing the end of your halter rope at him. The horse will probably spook (if he doesn’t, you need to swing it harder, maybe kick some of the shavings or dirt on the floor in his direction) anything to get the horse moving. When he does move, his head will come up and start to turn towards you. When that happens, you immediately lower your halter rope, put on a “nice face”, speak softly, and encourage him to continue to look at you and come towards you. You are rewarding his good behavior (facing you) with a release of pressure, and he will recognize this instantly. Any sign of him turning his tail towards you, and you repeat the procedure. Consistency and timing are key, you have to become sweet the minute he looks at you, and become scary monster if he turns his heels towards you. And don’t get close enough to his heels to get kicked. If you do it right, you’ll have the horse coming up to you and putting his face into the halter.
This kind of training is just a foundation for everything you want to do with your horse. It prepares a horse’s mind for riding much better than treats in your pocket. When you ask the horse to whoa when riding, you’re going to do it by applying pressure and then releasing it when he obeys, correct? Or would you reach in your pocket for a treat to offer him so he’ll stop and reach back to take it from you? The simple answer is that releasing the horse from pressure puts a lasting mark in his mind that he will adhere to the rest of his life….even when you’re all out of treats.
Posted by admin @ 4:34 am