The wise thinking horse rider works with his horses's natural instincts and not against them. The horse's predominant instinct is to seek safety in flight: he will move away from pain or discomfort. In fact, he will anticipate the use of whip or spur and move away before it is applied. We take advantage of this in training.
The horse has limited intelligence and is highly suspicious of anything he doesn't understand. This instinct always requires the patience and understanding of the horseman.
For example, if your horse shies away from a strange object, it does more harm than good if you are rough with him or punish him. By doing this, you associate that particular object in his mind with punishment, and he will be even worse next time you approach it.
The horse is extremely gregarious and dislikes leaving the company of other horses, or his stable, the place he knows and trusts. This instinct can be used on occasion to the trainers advantage, but over a period of time the horse must learn to obey the horseman under all circumstances.
The inexperienced horseman must test his obedience in small things first and gradually increase the difficulty of the tests as obedience improves.
It is very largely due to the horse's excellent memory that we are able to train him at all. He rarely forgets anything he has been taught and unfortunately he will aquire bad habits just as quickly as good ones, so the horseman must always proceed carefully and never allow a fault to occur without it being corrected.
Once a bad habit becomes ingrained (and this can happen all too quickly) it is extremely difficult to eradicate.
Good training is the acquisition of good habits, desired qualities, wherby you improve your horse. The final test of a good horseman is this: does he improve the horse he rides?
The horse is very susceptable to reward. A soothing voice, a pat on the neck when he has done well, will associate an action with pleasant memory, and this is all part of the method of training.
The feeding of tidbits will encourage confidence, but should not be indulged in too liberally, otherwise the horse will become unmanageable and inclined to nip when the expected tidbits are not forthcoming-I have seen pet ponies become vicious through over petting.
The horse has little or no reasoning powers, however; he cannot relate cause and effect. If a horse is punished just one minute after doing something wrong, he doesn't connect the punishment with his wrongdoing.
Confusion in his mind is the result. A horse should rarely be punished even by the most experienced trainer. Correction is the answer. If your horse wilfully disobeys, the action should be repeated immediately at the same place until obedience is achieved.
The least sign of obedience must be rewarded.
The horse's sight and hearing are much more acute than ours, and a noise or sight that is commonplace to the rider can be a source of alarm to him. Watch your horse's ear; they work with his eyes and give a very good indication of his state of mind.
By using his instincts to our advantage, by overcoming his fears, we gain his confidence. As he gains confidence in the person on his back, so he will learn to relax in his mind and in turn will relax his muscles, all of which will help to produce a more supple and amenable ride for the horseman.