What are your dreams with your horse? Your horse runs to greet you at the gate. Going on a trail ride. Executing a perfect rollback. Riding perfectly into the sunset. Riding without fear. Your dreams can come true, with a plan.
Envision the relationship between you and horse if you had no fear or doubts, plenty of time and all the necessary skills. Save that mental picture. Break it down into pieces. What do you need to reach your goals? Confidence. Skills. Trust. Preparation. Training.
Begin creating a relationship with your horse by establishing your own confidence as a leader, building your horse’s confidence and preparing for success.
What do you need to have confidence in yourself as a rider? Confidence is the faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper or effective way. Equip yourself with knowledge and skills to react properly and ride effectively. Gain knowledge from great horsemen, by researching and reading, and watching, talking and listening to those who do it well. Sharpen your skills with practice, attending clinics or good instruction. Participate in a regular physical fitness program with stretching and strengthening. Five minutes a day can make a difference.
Address fear, make a plan, equip your self, take action, get through it, move ahead but don’t be foolish. Sometimes getting off and handling the issue from the ground is wise. A part of good horsemanship and confidence is keeping you and your horse safe and not worrying about what others think.
Be the leader. Create a relationship of mutual trust and confidence. It is amazing what a horse will do for a rider it trusts. Appreciate your horse by expecting them to behave. It is much like disciplining a child. They need to know the rules and the rules need to be applied consistently.
Learn to think like a horse. Horses communicate through body language, are motivated by comfort and security, live in the present and don’t care to keep up with the neighbors. Use pressure and release with timing to tell your horse he did the right thing. Make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy.
We all know out of control children and well-behaved children. Just as children are products of their environments, so are horses. Expect them to behave by providing consistent rules and leadership.
An effective leader has commanding authority or influence. Leadership is not dominance or aggression. Leadership is firmness with compassion. Remember, horses are very instinctual. Horses know us better than we know our self, listen to them as you lead. They will let you know what works.
Help your horse be confident and build trust in you, his leader. Horses are herd animals that are motivated by comfort and security. Their security and trust comes from their leader - you. Help them to become more confident by speaking their language. A herd takes on the personality of the matriarch mare. Her herd can be spooky, impulsive and worried or solid and calm. Pick which leader you are going to be.
All future skills build on a solid foundation. Take the time to get it right. Horses gain confidence when they know they can do right. They know they have done right when you release pressure. Timing is important. Reward the try by releasing pressure when they think about trying. This works for trailer loading, crossing a tarp or learning a new maneuver.
Prepare for success by setting up situations that allow success. Give them a job they can do well. (This works for kids also.) Opening and closing a gate is a good example. If your horse can do it well – great. If they can’t you need to make a decision. Do I have enough time and skills to do this right? Do I need to work on more foundation skills first? Am I equipped to do this? Then decide, should I lead the horse through the gate today, work on more foundation skills and come back to the gate, or can I do it today. Part of being a good and confident horseman is knowing when to push through a problem and when to go back to the fundamentals. Sometimes three steps back is really ten steps forward.
Remember that mental picture? What do you need to reach your goals? Create a relationship with your horse by establishing your own confidence as a leader, build your horse’s confidence and prepare for success. You will be amazed at what you can do.
Kelli Paulson is a Purina Regional Ambassador. Strategy is part of her training program because it keeps her horses in top condition while maintaining stable, easy to work with temperaments. Her goal is teaching natural horsemanship methods proven to create safe and willing horses by providing you and your horse with tools, knowledge and events that turn every ride into a confidence building, positive situation. Mid States Ranch Horses, LLC offers training, lessons, Trail Rider Challenge’s, Authentic Horsemanship Clinics and Cowgirl Camp. Visit www.midstatesranchhorses.com or call 402-427-5515 for more information.