I may seem pretty chill on the outside, but I’m a pretty emotional person. Ask any of my close friends, I’m insecure and kinda introverted; I watch and learn. Like I said, That might sound contradictory to what you see on the outside, but it’s true. Most people that are any good at anything are usually insecure, but they can also be inwardly confident. You’d never hear us say anything boastful out loud though, because if we do and screw up, it’s emotionally disastrous. We usually hide the confidence; the more important aspect of all this is that we don’t make mistakes. In fact, we’re afraid to make mistakes because if we do it equates to a lack of success or a lack of knowledge; and in the final twist all this insecurity and confidence...that what drives us.
Did you get all that... because when training horses, none of those attributes are helpful. The key to success with training horses is to be emotionless; not insecure, not overly confident, not sad, not mad - NOTHING. No emotion. Blank. Indifferent. Phlegmatic.
Like humans, horses are, in fact, emotional animals, but in a physical way; not like humans. Horses display their emotions through actions; pinning their ears, kicking, striking, chewing, yawning, through their eyes, etc. So when training horses, somatic, or physical, emotion is more effective. Therefore, human actions like screaming, yelling, getting mad or frustrated do not translate to horses like they do to people. It’s our body language that gets their attention.
As an emotional person, it took me years to learn the physical language of horses; but I studied hard.
Whenever I train a horse, I told talk to them. I watch and learn. The things I always look for are 1) what are their ears doing? Are they moving towards me and listening or away and focusing on something else. 2) What are their eyes doing? Are they looking at me, are they blinking are they soft or not wide open. 3) What are they doing with their head? Is it high or low. 4) What is the posture of their body? Are they relaxed or stiff or rigid. 5) Are they standing quietly or are they fidgeting and unable to stand still. All of these are examples of how horses emote.
There wasn’t one horse that taught me this... it was hundreds of horses and thousands of hours, experimenting with cues and getting responses; responses I didn’t want and responses I did.
The most important takeaway is that horses respond better to an unemotional “trainer”, one that gives consistent and calm cues minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day. A trainer that is in a hurry, that is mad, yells or is forceful and not consistent will have less much success, or none at all.
The one thing I stress to my clients when they are working with their horse is be relaxed and consistent; give the cue in the same calm manner Every. Single. Time. You. Ask! And if you have to teach it 1000 times, then teach it 1000 times, because that’s how long it’s going to take. And that’s ok because once your horse learns it, I guarantee your horse will never forget it. He will remember everything... from the ground up.
John Lyons Certified
Horseback Riding Lessons
Jessica Forliano is a John Lyons Certified Trainer specializing in Problem horses / behavioral issues and starting young horses and ponies under saddle. Her passion shows through the accomplishments of each of horse or pony she works with as they reach their potential in the show ring.