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Being Kind and Being Clear

Kate Fenner - Tuesday, February 26, 2013
While you never have to be cruel to be kind you almost certainly have to be clear to be kind. We often fail to make our cues (requests) to our horse clear. We think we are being kind but perhaps we are just being 'blur' and leaving the horse in a state of confusion which eventually leads to excessive desensitisation. If we ask the horse to trot, for example, and he takes a little time to get into trot and when he does it is slow and he falls back to walk occasionally then we are often 'sucked into' kicking or tapping him with our legs almost every stride. We have all ridden horses like this and know it is no fun at all for us and it cannot possibly be any fun for the horse.

Horse trotting 

Staying in gait without constant pressure

Imagine going for a lovely long walk in the park with a very dear friend. You happily walk along gently holding hands (think bridle contact)  and you are thinking you could easily do this for many hours. Then, your friend decides to poke you in the side every second or so. Does this spoil your enjoyment of the walk? Of course it does. If, like the horse, you are not allowed to end the walk, you will do your best to ignore the poking in the side (desensitising) but in all likelihood you will not be very happy about it! The horse doesn't mind walking, trotting or cantering - he just likes to know what is right and wants the pressure to go away. Next time we will look at how to get this message across to the horse without falling into that trap of asking for every stride.

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