Solving Horse Problems

No matter how novice or professional you currently are with horses, all horse owners share one thing in common – problems.  Working out a relationship between a prey animal (horse) and a predator (human) is inherently challenging. Even when things are going reasonably well, dealing with a prey animal that outweighs you 10-1 means challenges are a given!

Horse on Alert: horse showing prey animal body language while assessing possible danger

Don’t forget that as a prey animal horses are in the same category as chickens, rabbits, and deer – but they are much bigger and stronger. Humans are in the category of cats, dogs, and bear. It is only a matter of time before prey animal logic clashes with predatory logic and problems erupt in the relationship. Resistance and avoidance (fight and flight) behavior are the only ways a horse has of expressing that its needs are not being met. This may manifest as an extreme problem ­– one that is dangerous, or a mild problem–one that is annoying, but the core issue is the same.

Your problems may be so severe that basic safety with the horse is your main goal. Your problems may be less severe, with safety issues surfacing only in certain situations. Your problems may be very mild, meaning that you always feel safe with the horse, but you are frustrated with your progress. When any kind of problem surfaces between you and the horse, it is a signal that something on a fundamental level, something regarding the basic needs of safety or comfort, are not being met.  So, how do you solve problems? How do you build a successful relationship with your horse – one of harmony and partnership? How do you realize your dreams? The secret to success is serving the horse’s needs first in order to get what you want in return.

Focused Horse: Horse is paying attention to handler instead of distractions and calm enough to lower its head position

In body and mind, the horse NEEDS to feel safe and comfortable in order to do what you ask. This is the premise behind finding a Point of Balance in the emotional, mental, and physical nature of a horse. When a horse’s needs are met, they return the loyalty with a generous work ethic and trust. Problems simply melt away. When a horse’s needs are ignored or placed lower on the agenda than human desires, horses simply cannot do what we ask because self-preservation stands in the way.

Problem solving when it comes to horses, is less specific than one may think. Problem solving is not about using a certain strategy to overcome a certain problem. Problem solving takes creativity with a single ideal aim in mind as the result. When a horse feels safe and comfortable on the inside the problems are easily solved. When a horse is pushed into fear or physical struggle, problems mount.  Solutions that provide the horse with a sense of safety in any given situation is  good leadership and creates a bond of trust. With trust and leadership even the toughest problems can be resolved.

Quite often there is a tendency to get rid of horses with problems as evidenced by horse rescues.  I have spent several years at the Equine Rescue and Adoption Foundation retraining horses that were often left or given-up because they had “problems”.  Learning to solve problems with a horse is one of the best tools available for improving your horsemanship.

Sometimes the first step of training is to help the horse feel safe and develop calm, focused attention

Before you try to unload your problem horse on someone else, you could ask yourself, “How can I help this horse become a better horse?” After all, you picked the horse. The horse did not pick you. Even if you think you have made a mistake and chosen the “wrong” horse (as we do), how can you make the horse’s life better before passing it on to someone else?

With true horsemanship, a sense of responsibility exists towards the horse. Horsemanship is for those that seek to better a horse and better themselves in the process. Solving problems and finding balance is how you get there.

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Quote Of The Day

"You cannot train a horse with shouts and expect it to obey a whisper."
~Dagobert D. Runes