Training a horse isn’t a simple task, but it’s also not the dangerous, violent exercise it once was. That’s because the whipping and rodeo antics of the Wild West have largely given way to a more considerate and reciprocal form of training. Some call it horse whispering—others call it natural horsemanship. Whatever you call it, it’s the philosophy that many trainers today are promoting. These tips from trainers at AlphaHorse.com and Frank Bell, Horse Whisperer exemplify these new techniques.
Jeffrey Rolo from AlphaHorse says that light slaps or verbal growls are acceptable ways to deal with undisciplined horses, especially young ones who haven’t been trained. A physical slap will not really hurt a horse, but will send the message that you have expectations for him. A form of discipline which requires no harsh moves on your part, however, is to march the horse around a round pen. This eliminates the horse’s physical advantage and shows him that you are capable of getting what you want from him.
Frank Bell offers ways to determine your horse’s mood before interacting with him. A horse that is holding his head up is uptight, while a relaxed horse will hang his head lower. By teaching your horse to drop his head when anxious, he will actually become more relaxed. Horses that feel safe and comfortable also often move their mouths. Bell writes that you can also aid a horse in relaxing by massaging their eyes, ears, or nose.
Rolo also touches on the subject of removing your horse’s fear of water. Many times, this fear is simply found in new horses who haven’t experienced running water before. Older horses who display this reaction have usually been traumatized by a water-related accident. The best way to overcome this problem is by demonstrating the harmless properties of water, either by letting your horse watch another cross, or by taking your horse through small puddles and working up to larger bodies of water.