Often when there is a problem in the horse-human relationship people are looking for answers that help them. They want a solution, for their problem.
In most cases it is the horse that has a problem, with the way he is housed, fed, handled, tacked or trained. I see most people are looking for human centered solutions which often focuses on symptom management, not a cure.
I like to solve problems with the horse in mind.
Human Centered Solutions
In Human Centered Solutions the human gets what he wants:
- If the horse is putting his head in the air the solution is often a martingale.
- If the horse is ”lazy’ (I don’t believe that label is applicable to animals) the rider gets a whip or spurs.
- If the horse doesn’t want to walk into a trailer, he is forced into it either by putting a lunge line behind his butt or he has to ‘learn what the sweet spot is’ and is chased around and around until the horse ‘chooses’ the right thing and that is entering the trailer.
- If the horse eats or chews wood, the solution is to put a bad tasting substance (sometimes even sambal) on the wood or I also have seen that a horse in his own stable was surrounded by hot wire in order to prevent nibbling on the wood.
- If a horse injures another horse, he gets ‘solitary confinement’ as punishment or as ‘solution’.
Unfortunately I can make this list very, very long. I think we can all think of at least 20 examples, right?
Human Centered Solutions are short cuts. They may seem to give a solution because they deal with the symptom(s), but they don’t change or solve the root of the problem. In the long run they might even worsen the problem for the horse.
I like to look at the cause of a ‘problem’ and resolve that. My philosophy is for every problem is a solution. It takes a bit more, and sometimes a lot more to choose this way. In the end it is better and it saves time, pain, frustration for both horse and handler.
HippoLogic’s Horse Centered Solutions
HippoLogic works only with Horse Centered Solutions. Solutions that work on the root of the problem, not the symptom.
In cases where the horse throws his head in the air, let’s find out why:
Is he in pain?
- Does the rider have harsh hands? Teach the rider how to balance and take the reins away until he has an independent seat.
- Does the rider bump in the saddle or is unbalanced? See above
- Are the horses teeth causing pain (hooks on his molars)? Let a vet or equine dentist take a look at his teeth.
- Does the saddle fit? Call an independent saddle fitter (not a sales person).
- Is the horse physically OK? Ask the vet to check him out.
Is he anxious?
- Does the horse try to flee? Give your horse confidence with training.
- Does the horse try to bolt or rear? Why? Find out if he is in pain, if he does get enough exercise, gets too much grain and so on. Change what he missed into what he needs.
Is it learned behaviour?
- Does the horse get reinforced by throwing his head up in the air? Change the training and reinforce him more for the opposite behaviour.
If a horse is labeled ‘lazy’ I want to find out why. What does he do to get labeled as ‘lazy’? Does he not walk, trot, canter fast enough or doesn’t he react (fast enough) to the riders cues?
Does the horse know?
- Does the horse know what is expected from him? That he is supposed to go faster or react faster? Does your horse know what the leg aid means? Teach the behaviour first, then put a cue on it. Reinforce the desired behaviour with something the horse wants!
Why is the horse not motivated to go faster or react quicker?
- Is the horse tired? Does he gets his REM sleep (the only get REM sleep when they lay down to sleep) or is he sleep deprived? Take a look at his housing and check if he is laying down at least once every 24 hours.
- Is the horse tired because he spent his energy on something else? Is he nervous, does he have to guard the herd, is it a stallion and is it breeding season?
- Is the horse in good shape? Does he have the stamina that is asked? Is he overweight? Is he physically able to move better or faster? Let the vet check him out and ask a equine nutritionist (not a sales person!) for advice.
- Is the horse not motivated enough? I like to use positive reinforcement to motivate a horse and a marker to mark the desired behaviour (increased speed or faster reactions to the handler cues). That is a bit of a puzzle, but once you figured it out you have solved the problem for the rest of the horses live (if he lives another 25 years that is worth your time investment)!
I can go on and on. This is only the tip of the iceberg of possibilities you can try.
Trailer loading, wood chewing and dangerous horses
In these cases too, I focus on the cause of the problem: is there fear, pain, misunderstanding, physical needs or welfare issues that are at play?
It takes time, effort and knowledge to understand what the problem really is. Sometimes it takes even more time, effort and trial and error to figure out a sustainable solution. But if you do, it is worth it, because you know it is a horse centered solution! Therefor you encountered the real problem and you are now understanding your horse. Who doesn’t want that? What is a better base for a relationship?
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve Human-horse relationships by connecting equestrians with their inner wisdom (you know what is good for your horse if you look into your heart) and sharing the simple principles of learning and motivation. I offer online horse training courses and coaching to give you the knowledge and experience you need to train your own horse in a safe and effective way, that’s FUN for both you and your horse. Win-Win!
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free) or visit HippoLogic’s website.