How to deal with a nippy, pushy horse?

When we start training our horse, especially from the ground, we guide our horse’s head:

  • We lead our horse from A to B
  • We turn left
  • Turn right
  • We ask for forward down at a standstill
  • We ask for circles on the longe line
  • We teach our horse the laterals in hand

Now in all these situations, we need to avoid:

  • too much pressure
  • too long pressure
  • too often pressure
  • sudden pressure
  • steady pressure

Because these kinds of pressure might trigger the following:

  • Our horse goes in the opposite direction, and in a state of ‘flight‘.
  •  Our horse goes against the pressure, and gets in a state of ‘fight‘.
  •  Our horse ignores the pressure, and gets in a state of ‘freeze‘.

As a result, we end up in a push/pull contest or a nipping/biting game!

Now, don’t think it’s the horse’s fault…

Don’t settle for the thought ‘it’s just the way he is‘…

Don’t label him as ‘dominant’…

we need to change our approach  !

Because if we use pressure in a disempowering way, our horse’s mind gets occupied with two things:

  1.  How to avoid pressure.
  2.  How to get rid of it.

That’s just how our horse’s instinct works!

And once we trigger that instinct, we trigger his ‘survival’ brain…

And then his reptilian brain takes over…

And once he is in a more or less instinctual frame of mind…

he will not think about our actual request!!

This means, he will NOT think about:

  • the exercise
  • the movement
  • the behavior he has to do.

Therefore, we have to make sure to make it a #1 priority to refine our pressure/release technique!

Timing and dosing are key in avoiding an instinctual ‘opposed’ state!

Releasing in time will keep our horse in a ‘thinking frame of mind‘!

By releasing early, often, quickly, long, and soon, our horse starts to figure out what we want and work together with us.

Plus, we have to remember this:

It’s well timed and well-dosed pressure that will ‘teach’ a horse something – from the outside in.

But it’s our release that allows our horse to really understand and ‘learn’ the new exercise, behavior, movement – from the inside out.

Plus, when we combine our release, with a reward and a moment of relaxation, well that’s the most powerful reinforcement triad – RRR – you can imagine.

To Make A Long Answer Short

To prevent and get rid of nippy, pushy behavior, change your approach:

  • Refine your timing and dosing of pressure and release
  • Avoid too much, too long, too often, sudden and steady pressure.
  • Release early, often, quickly, long and soon.
  • Reinforce good behavior with a release, a reward and moment of relaxation to get more of the behavior you want.

In the Straightness Training Scholar Program you can get help to put the theory into practice.

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