Horse Psychology Tutorial: Part 6 Trust and comunication

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Horse Psychology Tutorial - Part 6 Trust and comunication

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Trust and Communication
Part 2 of an 8-part series on horse psychology by trainer Gina Gaye Muzinich of the Morgan Horse Ranch

Since a horse is naturally fearful, you cannot rid him of all his fear. We must teach the horse a “cue” to calm down because there are too many things in life for the horse to “get used to”. We must also condition the horse’s comfort zone and build a relationship around trust. A good example of a horse’s trust is when a foal follows his mother into the crashing waves of the ocean. It’s the foal’s idea to enter the water because the trust in his mother overpowers his fear of the ocean and his fear of being left behind. Most of us may never develop a horse’s trust like the mare and foal, but it can come close. It doesn’t matter to some people whether their horse trusts them or not because they’ve “gotten by” so far, but one day they might need that trust at a certain time. A horse’s trust in humans is built through meaningful, effective, positive communication that results in obedience. Once there is trust and communication, horses and humans can effectively learn from each other.

Every time we ride, we are teaching the horse something, regardless of whether it is intentional or not. Therefore, to teach or reinforce the right things, we need to become aware enough to be able to discourage the wrong things. Trying to reverse problems or to retrain a horse requires much more work than prevention does. It takes time, far beyond the time that most of us can offer.

All of us, no matter how experienced, can and do teach horses to beautifully perform certain tasks. However, we must still continue to improve our horse training techniques. Because more often than not, horses learn a lot of undesirable things along the way, like how uncomfortable he often becomes when associating with humans. This can lead to the destruction of trust, resulting in dangerous and sometimes life threatening situations!

What causes a horse discomfort and the destruction of trust?

The predominant answer is confusion, fear, and pain. So many times we bounce on his back and kidneys; pinch his ears while bridling; bang against his gums or tongue while putting the bit in his mouth; pinch his skin while cinching up the saddle; hurt his back by using ill-fitting saddles, or give him mixed signals because our body is not in rhythm with the horse’s movements. A horse does not realize that the confusion, fear and pain we cause him is not intentional. We may love our horse very much, but all the horse knows is that a great portion of human contact is uncomfortable, and he would rather be elsewhere than with us. This is why some horses buck, kick or run away from us. But amazingly, most horses keep putting up with us. If it wasn’t for the forgiveness of some horses, some of us wouldn’t be here today!

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