Cowboy Phil’s Top 12 reasons why horses behave poorly

1. Lack of discipline & respect

The number one cause of behavioural issues is the lack of discipline & respect. Horses are herd animals; they function through hierarchy and require leadership. Not only is a horse instinctively more obedient to the “lead horse” but they feel more secure and at ease around them. Discipline goes hand and hand with respect. Out of  the last fifty horses I’ve trained, 95% of their behavioural issues such as aggression, focus, disobedient, fear, bucking plus many more, all had owners that were too soft, lacking discipline, respect and leadership. We often see here that the horse likes their owners but don’t respect them.

 2. Humanization of horses

The number two reason stems through “humanization” of horses. These types of trainers, riders or owners are people lacking horse knowledge and the understanding of how horses learn, think, feel, act & play. Therefore they treat the horse like a human, attempting to communicate & train them with methods horses don’t respond well too. Training success takes forever due to humanization; goals that should take 5 minutes to achieve are taking 5 months. 90% of the horse trainers around these parts fall into this category.

3. Bad timing

The third most common issue is people unintentionally training their horses to behave incorrectly through bad timing. Horses are motivated through pressure but learn through the release of that pressure. So timing is key. If you release pressure or avoid issues when the horse behaves incorrectly, all you are doing is rewarding negative behaviour. Our goal is to make the wrong things hard and the right things easy, timing, timing, and timing.

4. Confusion, too many grey areas

You have it or you don’t with horses. Make it black, white and simple. The fourth biggest issue comes from confusion and rider chaos. It’s our responsibility as rider or trainer to make things crystal clear. The key is balance and once again timing. You need to be assertive, yet cool at the same time.  No grey areas, by making things black or white your horse will be secure, relaxed and most importantly motivated to work. When a horse is confused it gets scared, when it’s scared they will flee or fight. If you address the core issue, everything else will take care of itself.

5. Not understanding and fixing the core issue

Enough said.

6. Lacking the right foundation and don’t focus on the little things

A lot of little things ad up to something big. Any yahoo can do the big obvious stuff, but the true horseman see’s and focuses on the little things during every second. The best place to start is making sure that the right basis and foundation has been built, establishing leadership & connection. This ensures a long term working partnership with an obedient, motivated, happy horse.

7. Ego

Most people don’t come to trainings to learn something new, rather, to confirm what they already know is right. If you are not humble, your horse will humble you. My rule of thumb is this, “watch what everyone else is doing, then do the opposite, then you have a 90% chance you will get it right”.

8. Lack of Self confidents

The horse has no idea what you know or don’t know. He can only feel your feelings for him and senses who you really are. If you don’t believe in yourself, don’t expect the horse to believe in you either. Have a goal and plan for each session, this is an easy way to to start building confidents until you have some experience and success under your belt.

9. Balance

How much is too much… what’s not enough? We want to be assertive but cool at the same time. Apply enough energy or pressure he responds well but not so much he fights back or flees. Our goal is to move them out of their comfort zone and into the performance zone but not so far that they enter the danger zone. Understanding what personality type your horse has will help you determine the proper amount of energy needed to communicate on his or her level. Try not to get emotional when training, this is where the issue most often occurs, owners that are either to soft and gentle so that the horse doesn’t hear or respond properly or they get so frustrated they can’t come down and let go when the timing is right.

10. Over thinking and letting our minds get in our way.

Shut off the mind and follow your gut. The soul will heal itself, if we don’t let our minds stand in the way. Over thinking & intellectualizing will kill you in the horse world. Emotional intelligence is what’s needed here. Trust & follow your instinct or intuition. Believe it or not, that’s the primary means of animal communication. Learn the Language of the Spirit, which is spoken through the heart.

11. Personal Presence & Self Awareness

Horses are such a sensitive animal that if you can’t clear your plate, get your mind straight and have the right attitude; you shouldn’t step into the pen. Chances are, you’ll do more damage than good. Personal Presence is how animals or people feel when in your presence. It’s a combination of our three basic communication factors; body language, tonnage & verbal. 93% of human communication is non-verbal, so image what it is with horses. Be aware of every move you make, as it says something to the horse. Last but not least is the type of energy we project, it’s what others feel or sense from us. This comes from within and is determined by our attitude & emotions.

12. Length of training and giving up

Trainers usually give up before the horse does. They don’t get thrown out, they bail out. It’s not that a horse can’t work for hours at a time; it’s that we condition them to do less than their capable of through our own faults and laziness. Horses are creatures of habits as are we, which means they need develop highly effective habits for success. Such as longer attention spans, work ethics and practicing like a champion. Remember, repetition is habits, habits is training. I’ve seen trainers end a session at the worst possible moment, simply because “time is up” vs. “work is done”. Once again, this does more damage than good. Always and only end with “relaxed success”.

Our success triangle is built upon attitude, behaviour and technique, three things we can control. Personal Growth begins with brutal honesty and identifying the areas we must work on. Hope this helps and Happy Trails.

“Make every ride count”

Cowboy Phil