On Horses and Hounds

February 19, 2016

I often use the analogy of horse riding when I teach people how to manage a dog on a training halter.

 

It is much easier for me to convey what I need them to 'feel' when handling the dog if the person has horse experience.

 

I tell them it is like riding a horse but you are next to the dog and communicating with your whole body from the side instead of astride.

 

Training any animal has similarities, the empathy and ability to read body language is critical no matter what the species. We find what they 'need' to make them feel safe and trust in our judgement of a situation so that they can be guided by us.

 

Clear communication, consistency and fairness is the key. Working with predator animals such as dogs then you need to take on board the different drives that are inherent in them.

 

A Prey animal such as a horse will have totally different responses to the same triggers, flight instead of hunt. A horse is just as capable of killing you as a dog is and being astride a 500kg beastie has it's own dangers.

 

Mutual respect is the key no matter what beastie you work with, be it people, dogs, horses, sheep, cattle etc. Setting boundaries of what you will accept, compromising to accommodate the animals capacity to learn and building a rapport that enables both of you to learn and the relationship to grow.

 

The old adage of what you put out you get back tenfold applies to training animals perfectly. Use anger and hate and you will get back aggression and violence. Use reward, clear consistent guidelines and kindness then you will be reciprocated with a willing partner.

 

I will share with you some beautiful insights from a wonderful horse trainer, see below:

 

Ian Leighton with Ian Leighton Horsemanship.

December 9, 2014 · 

Microsoft

 ·  · 

Thought for the day:
Every time your horse leans on the reins or the lead rope or on the handler see it as an opportunity.
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Don't just hold and teach him that it is ok to lean.
Don't give to him and reward him for leaning.
Don't punish him and make him too frightened to give you a soft feel when you want it.
Don't hold him tight and make him feel trapped so that he feels like he has to lean or pull.
Don't avoid his leaning by staying out of his way or letting him teach you.
Don't avoid teaching him his responsibility to not pull or push on you. 
Don't make it something he must endure every time you handle him for the rest of his life. That is neither comfortable for the rider or fair on the horse.
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You could just hold a little more and release when he gives you a soft feel.
You could move his feet a little until he stops leaning and then let him stand as a reward.
You could, if he is leaning hard enough, follow him and maintain that contact until he stops or steps forward and then release.
You could use your presence and focus to help him understand what to do to gain that release.
You could set the situation up again a few times so that he has a chance to properly learn how to avoid being in this conflict.
You could gently bump the halter by tugging on the lead rope a few times when he is leaning and then leave him on a loose lead when he is not.
You could be totally consistent about this so that he learns to have a conflict free time every time he is with you.
You could find some help with this if you don't know what to do.
You could teach him in a subtle way at a stand-still how to respond to a soft feel so that he understands it.
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Giving your horse a nice life means not shirking your responsibilities here. The more you allow him to learn that leaning is ok the more he will have to endure the conflict in the future. 
Often the behaviour that causes the horse and rider the most discomfort "is not" caused by anything sinister. It is often caused by unwittingly teaching the horse to respond the wrong way to things.
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Remember every time your horse leans you are presented with another opportunity to make his life more comfortable in the future.

 

 

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