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March 8, 2016
A Horse, Of Course
By Don Blazer
There are a lot of mean, nasty, sour horses in this world. They run away, balk, bit, kick, rear, strike and refuse to work.
I can accept that. I know it’s a fact. But I can’t accept the misplacement of blame. I can’t accept the uneducated loudmouth who uses torture tactics to show the horse who’s boss.
I can’t accept those who, through ignorance, believe they can bribe the horse with TLC (tender, loving care). To me, TLC stands for “terrible loss of control”.
No, I can’t allow the blame for mischief, mistakes and malice to be placed upon the horse. The blame rests solely on the owner, trainer, handler or rider, or in combination with any or all of them.
The horse is not born sour, mean or nasty. The horse is not born making mistakes in the show ring or out on the trail.
Some horses, of course, are born with lesson desirable dispositions than others. Some are born with less heart, less desire to please, less athletic ability. But they aren’t mean, nasty or sour until someone tries to force them to meet man’s warped set of standards for performance.
The horse does not perform to please man. He always reacts in a manner of self-preservation. Therefore, he performs to save himself.
When a fool tried to beat, spank or club a horse into performing an exercise the horse has not yet learned, the horse simply becomes sour – biting, kicking or rearing to avoid pain and save himself.
Because the horse acts out of self-preservation, the training of horses is based on a punishment-reward system. Unfortunately, the punishment too often is overly severe and the only reward is lack of punishment.
The real art in training lies in the ability of the trainer to think before action – minimizing punishment and maximizing reward.
The great trainer guarantees the horse will get many, many more positive (reward) experiences than negative (punishment) experiences, for the great trainer knows the horse’s behavior is nothing more than an accumulation of his remembered experiences.
At the same time, the good trainer does not try to bribe the horse with treats and affection. The horse will accept both, but when satisfied or annoyed, he’ll do just as he pleases, unless two other elements are added. They are - respect and trust.
Every good trainer wants respect from the horses in his care. Once respect is gained, the trainer uses all the time required to teach the horse the desired behavior patterns. And as the lessons progress, the horse begins to trust the trainer.
Every well-trained horse has been given time.
Every well-trained horse has respect for the trainer.
Every well-trained horse trusts his trainer.
The only positive cure for mean, nasty, sour horses is always the same, and it is never more punishment. The trainer must isolate the problems by returning to the basic training procedures and then carefully re-school the horse, blocking out negative experiences with literally hundreds of positive experiences. A good trainer, with time, can often remake the horse by the intelligent application of sound principles.
When a horse misbehaves or doesn’t perform well, don’t blame the horse. Understand the cause of his behavior. Remove the cause and improve the horse.
Good will overcome evil.
Learn how horses think, enroll in the online course “Understanding Equine Behavior”, taught by Dr. Jennifer Williams. Visit www.equinestudiesinstitute.com and earn a certificate when you complete and pass the course.
March 1, 2016