Changing Habits

With horse training, sometimes, we have to change ourselves before we can change our horse.

From AQHA's "Fundamentals of Horsemanship”

Better the bond between you and your horse by changing some of your own horse-training habits. Journal photo

The amount of enjoyment you can have with your horse increases exponentially when you have an appreciation and understanding of real horsemanship. AQHA’s "Fundamentals of Horsemanship” explains the importance of changing your habits to become a true partner with your horse.

To truly understand horsemanship, we must no longer see it as a discipline, but rather as a way of living and being with horses in harmony with how they learn, act and react.

The first habit to change is the way we try to understand the horse. We must try to understand things from the horse’s point of view, which is easier said than done.

A true horseman stands out from the crowd by his way of doing everything from the way he tacks and leads a horse, to the way he behaves at all times.

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If we don’t really feel the need to change, the horse will constantly be forced to fill the gap left by our incompetence resulting from our ignorance. A rider can compensate for this by riding well and might not feel the need to change, but the lack of understanding remains. Basic foundations have been neglected, and the rider feels he can cope without them. But the gap is there, and problems will eventually become apparent if the rider doesn’t realize that only a change in habit will enable him or her to progress.

As horsemen, we must know how to:

  • Alter our teaching methods to adapt them to a specific horse.

  • Take a moment’s break from the exercise to avoid putting our horse in a situation of failure.

  • Use imagination to find a way around the problem.

  • Challenge our own ability: “If my horse can’t understand what I am asking, then as a horseman, I am responsible."

  • Maintain the “conversation” and help the horse find the will to continue learning by restoring his self-confidence.

One of the most important objectives of a horseman is to help the greatest possible number of horses to understand, progress and succeed. It is in this way that we would like each person to know how to deal with his horse.

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To be a true horseman, we must fight against the temptation to seek complications when we can find simplicity. This horsemanship method proposes gradual, clear and effective teaching situations. Be sufficiently flexible to adapt each situation, having first made sure you really understand it.

Always try to make progress; do not remain stuck on one exercise. Concentrate on improvement, not perfection. We must, however, know how to find the root of the problem and come back to it. Do not be tempted to skip certain steps; it is all a question of finding the right balance between consistency and variety.

It is imperative to work with the horse at his own level, not where we would like him to be. By making an exercise interesting, we will give him a reason and a motive to do what you ask.

Never forget that during this learning period, we have very little to offer the horse, but he has a great deal to offer us. If we can listen to his needs, we will be able to see and feel things as he does.