Updated: Sep 4, 2022
By building a connection and giving choices, I don’t have to use constriction or treats when riding or handling horses. This is something horses appreciate, even the ones others have given up on do great and transform in a short period of time with this method.
I am often told that riding horses is very hard. A complicated task that takes years of practice to master. I can agree that controlling and micromanaging horses is complicated, but who says that`s the way it should be done in the first place?
When learning to ride, it typically happens in a setting where the riding instructor tells us to make the horse do this or do that: “Ride over there and if the horse doesn’t want to, don’t let him win.” Learning to ride this way is all about controlling the horse and making the horse do what we want them to do. It’s not about giving the horse a choice and take the time to make our idea the horse’s idea.
One can only wonder, why?
Maybe it’s because if we allowed horses to choose, it could become obvious that what we think is a perfect relationship based on connection and trust, is more like a dictatorship. With us being in control and giving commands, while the horse simply obeys? Or maybe it’s because we don’t know how to give choices, because we’ve never learned how to do it?
Most riders grab the reins from the moment they sit in the saddle, to prevent the horse from walking off and make sure the horse goes where they want to.
How do you think horses feel about this type of handling and riding?
If they’re anything like us—who enjoy freedom of choice and hate being micromanaged—I’m pretty sure they’re a bit fed up. Maybe even offended by our lack of trust in them.
I’m not saying this to judge you, because I’ve been there myself. It was not until I started giving my horses choices that I realized how much they disliked my training. At liberty, they would turn their hind end toward me, run off or just ignore me.
This is when it`s very tempting to bring in the treats and bribe the horse to be with us and pay attention. But I think the biggest game-changer is to connect with them by catching their eyes on a distance and wait for relaxation. Because if we catch our horse’s eyes, the rest will follow. Horses go to where they look and feel comfortable.
Now I train all my horses this way. Because I know that by building a connection and giving choices, I don’t have to use constriction or treats when riding or handling them. This is something they appreciate. Even the ones others have given up on do great and transform in a short period of time with this method.
By giving choices my idea becomes the horse’s idea and this is what makes leading without lead rope and riding without bridle easy. It also makes regular riding a whole lot easier for the rider and healthier for the horse. Because when their minds are happy and relaxed, their bodies takes a functional shape with natural self-carriage and hind leg engagement, coming from self.
It’s all pretty obvious to me now. We can’t teach horses self-control by controlling them. Just as horses can’t do something by choice without having a choice in the first place.
But there is one thing we need to be aware of: We can’t expect a horse that has never been given choices to perform well when first given a choice.
There`s a system and it starts on the ground. Watch video below of how this mare went from bucking to bridleless, by being offered connection and given choices.
Thank you so much for watching!
If you want to learn more about what we did to make this horse safe and fun to ride check out this blog on how to make horses braver and less spooky. A training starring the same horse, cause when starting out she was afraid of the whip, which was something that needed to be solved👉