In the remarks on my working philosophy I already noted down some thoughts on the important pillars leadership, communication and motivation.
Here I will describe some situations to illustrate in which way these three pillars are of practical importance:
In the daily handling of horses it is important even for seemingly unimportant situations that the rider takes the leadership. Unfortunately I see the opposite rather often – where the illusion of leadership exists – but where the horse (and this is seen from the perspective of the horse) does not know whom to orient himself by. Most of the time it is especially the small gestures through which horses repeatedly check the ranking order. If the rider – either out of inattentiveness or out of ignorance – reacts to these inquiries in an unclear and imprecise manner, the potential for bigger misunderstandings and future problems has already been set up.
Motivational behavioural training provides the theoretical and practical knowledge for the development of a competent and consistent handling of the horse, in which the ranking order is
well and clearly set up.
I would like to give one small example to illustrate this point:
There is a sudden rustling noise in the bushes during a little walk with the horse. The horse reacts with a startle and jumps to the side thus moving into the space of the person. Intuitively the handler reacts by stepping aside in order to avoid a potentially painful collision.
This situation illustrates that the respect that the horse has for his handler is not yet sufficient. Ideally, the horse knows – no matter what the situation is and how scary it might be – to not get into the individual space of the person leading him and to maintain the proper distance.
Another problem I see all too often is that the horse has no interest in the work with her rider. This is an indicator that the daily time with the person is not interesting to the horse; it might be even boring or – worse yet – associated with negative experiences.
Such horses have no reason to look forward to the training and therefore they have no incentive to apply themselves to their work. Off course, there are horses that by their nature have less interest in humans than others. But in most cases horses that are aloof to people or even stand-offish in their attitudes have learned through previous negative experiences and therefore lost their motivation.
Through motivational behavioural training a new basis for motivation is created which then allows a successful and positive further training.
Sometimes I work with students and horses where there is a background of traumatic experiences in the riding. For the students these can be, for example, severe riding accidents; for the horses this means incompetent training (for example while starting a young horse under saddle, accidents while loading, during general handling or with the rider).
Negative previous experiences make it difficult to achieve a harmonious cooperation. It is my goal to undo these blockages through trust-building measures, exercises to develop motivation and through teaching good leadership. In this work it is important to address the cause of the problem and not only to fight the symptoms.