Preparation for a leadership role is important to be ready for this challenge. First of all you have to set your mind to focus on the task at hand and to keep you emotions in check no matter what. You have to learn to speak “horse”. You need to empty your mind of everything you did that day and everything that upset you in the past week. From the time you walk out to catch your horse he has to be the number one most important thing on your mind. You have to have already decided that no matter what he does you are not going to get mad, frustrated, sad, offended or feel any other negative feeling. Happy is good, positive is important and empathetic is a must. Remember the whole time what we talked about in my prior articles about positive and negative reinforcement.
Next you must determine where you horse fits into the herd. This makes a huge difference in how you respond to your horse. If you have a lead horse that is a bit dominant and fearless you have to be a very strong leader. If the horse shoves into you, it’s important to shove back, do some ground games that establish control over your horse’s space such as the 7 Parelli games. Now, when I say get after the horse, it never means to be angry or grudge-holding. But if for example, I pull a mare in that wants to pin me into the round pen wall, I’ll go ahead and give it a quick kick to the leg. I won’t yell, or get mad, I’ll simply give it a quick kick, a shove back and when it’s safely out of my space I’ll quietly go back to brushing it, or saddling. Anger is not an emotion that can enter into the relationship with your horse. Horses don’t run around in the pasture holding grudges, they simply deal with each issue as it comes and resume eating. If a horse would move up in another’s space and bump it, that horse would take a swift bite or kick. If you have shoved back and you are getting no respect you need to go backwards as I mentioned earlier with some ground work in horsemanship by a clinician like Pat Parelli or Clinton Anderson.
The next horse is the flighty horse or over-sensitive horse. He’s the type that needs quiet and confident leadership. He’s the one that might step into your space and simply a quiet guttural noise will be enough to back him off. If this is the type of horse you have you have to be even more quiet and focused and unemotional than ever. These are the type of horses that can become almost dangerous if you do not calm them down. You want to establish a very calm way of doing things with these horses before you ever try to hit the trails. You can still do the same ground games with these horses as your dominant ones but your end goal is different, instead of developing respect of space, you are trying to develop trust.
So, as soon as this horse calmly and quietly does something right it’s important to stop and quietly praise them. These are horses I will sometimes just hang out with. We do an exercise and then I walk over and drape an arm over their back or neck and just sit and chat for awhile until they lower their heads and relax. The more you do this with a horse like this the more relaxed you both feel in your relationship.The easiest is the horse in the middle. He’s not overly scared or sensitive but it’s also pretty easy to be the leader as he doesn’t really challenge your leadership.