Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dog Soldiers: The Importance of Security to the Horse

Took Persa, a Shackleford mare born wild, into the woods for a hard ride this morning. She has had limited training and nearly no riding for the past two years.

She behaved better than most people would have expected. Two dogs went along with us--as long as they ran out in front she relaxed and followed at good speed. However, when the dogs went in the woods she slowed down and balked.

The bottom line was that she lacked the confidence to take the lead on a run through the woods. The dogs out in front provided that confidence. Without them she felt lost.

There are two responses that this behavior might elicit from different trainers. One is to say that the horse must learn to ride up front without relying on dogs and the way to do that is to leave the dogs at home and put the miles on her until experience teaches her to rely on you rather than the dogs to give her confidence.

I prefer the other route. I will continue to ride her with the dogs and will be perfectly consistent in my cues and ride with intense focus. Eventually the confidence will come.

And it will come gradually and naturally.

Her problem is not "needs to follow dogs" per se. Her problem is a feeling of lack of security and steady positive, predictable experiences in the woods will give her that vital sense of security.

Its not about dogs--it is about feeling safe and secure.

1 comment:

DianneW said...

Forcing her into the woods alone would likely make her more afraid of the woods. Horses tend to take an "I'm scared, therefore this must be scary" point of view. And if it is scary today, it will be scary tomorrow. It might even cause her to question your judgement and suitability as a leader.