• Janet Phinney

She is looking for praise, give it freely, and quickly.

The best thing you can do to help your horse understand what you want them to do is praise.  The most important thing we want to instill and reaffirm every day for the horse is that they think they can always move their feet, and it isn't hard to do so to get praise.  The goal is to connect deeper and to get them to move their feet in new and exciting ways.  


Praise may look different for each horse and rider.  It is key is to find the praise that motivates your horse, and then you learn to give that freely.  Recently I was taking a lesson, and she suggested to me to speak my praise out loud.  I am comfortable to thinking it and feeling it, but not speaking it.  When I did that, I was very vocal and encouraging and even petting my horse more as she responded positively.  I have had this horse for fourteen years and am now learning to give her better praise.  

During each ride we have an idea of what we want the horse to do, but it is up to them to do it.  Learning in each moment to make the desired choice for the horse obvious and all the undesired choices uncomfortable (no praise), is our job.  It is like a conversation from the heart, choreographing a dance with a partner that doesn't speak our language, but speaks the language of love and appreciation.  


Young horses are quick to try something new and often they try things we did not understand they would try so we are very busy staying connected to them so they do not lead the dance while we are scratching our heads.  It is like improvisation when we work with young horses. The better you are, the more natural it is for the horse and before you know it they are following your feel.  A young horse's attention often goes to the outside environment as that it his natural tendency.  He has to learn that we are a more important aspect of his environment.  


As a horse learns to respond to our legs, hands, seat, thoughts and feelings, all we have to do is to be consistent, and that in of itself is a full-time job for me.  So much in my life wants my attention, and it is my job to stay focused and present with my horse. 


Older horses pose their own challenges because they will often not try much new and learn to ignore us and do little when we want them to do more.  As young horses, their teacher probably ended up scratching their heads more, which rewarded the horse as they stopped communicating to ponder what to do next.  And it is easy for the rider to do too much too soon and if the horse learns to accept that "too much", they get a little dull.  It seems harder to offer an older horse praise when they are doing less, but it is still the best approach to teaching them to offer you more and try new things.


A little known secret to giving praise more freely and quickly to the horse is to give it to yourself and others too.  It is easier to change ourselves in every part of our lives, not just with our horses.


Share with us ways you have found to give praise that rocked your world.  

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