How to keep yourself safe in tough situations.
Are you safe? Regardless of the horse's experience, it's useful to step back and ask the question. "Am I safe?" If the answer is, "maybe, no, or not sure," then a goal emerges to keep you safe before you advance to stage two.
1. While leading a horse, step up and keep him away from you, avoid tough situations for the most part and in the rare occasion you end up in a tough situation, keep yourself between the scary situation and your horse. This will allow the horse to feel somewhat protected and prevent him from tromping over you. He may attempt to pull away, but he'll be easier to manage and you'll be out of harm's way. If he does try to pull away, try to keep him facing you and keep the scary thing behind you.
2. While riding, be sure to cause your horse to face the scary situation to help prevent the horse from tearing off with you in the opposite direction. Stay deep in your seat and short on your reins (not tight, just short). You'll have to be quick, but you can save your own life by facing the scary thing rather than turning away. The only exception to this basic idea is when a grizzly bear chases you out of the mountains.
How to help your horse become self-confident.
Are you brave and you feel safe and confident? If you're confident, you can begin to influence the horse's confidence using a completely opposite approach. Instead of standing between the scary thing or facing the scary thing, you will purposely role play challenging situations where the horse has to face his fears without you stepping in-between.
1. While leading your horse, cause him to stand between you and the scary thing. If you do this often enough and you feel safe enough to set clear boundaries, you can teach your horse to have self-confidence, instead of relying on your protection, which will make him a much safer horse in the long run.
2. While riding, instead of facing the object, teach your horse to ignore the object. Teach him to put his "tail to the wind storm," so to speak, or to stand parallel. Don't let him run away, just teach him he doesn't have to face the problem, instead, he has to ignore it. You have to be clear, rewarding and quick to correct, but if you master this you will cause your horse to be much safer for any other rider.
All master horse trainers know this technique, but people don't know and therefore struggle for years to develop their horse's confidence. Remember you have to be brave to employ this strategy and you have to plan ahead for contingencies. You may have to revert to stage one if all goes wrong, but... if you believe in the strategy, you will continue to come back to it day after day and eventually cause your horse to have true self-confidence.
Here's what you need to know! I believe in you. I believe you can stay safe, grow your own confidence and finally influence your horse's confidence. Your horse may trust you today, as a friend, to stand between him and his enemies, but does he trust you as a leader to prove to him, he can stand in the storm and become a truly bomb proof partner.
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