In earlier times it was a matter of life or death if your ‘war horse’ was or wasn’t obedient.
Gustav Steinbrecht (1808–1885):
“The young horse must first learn the art of understanding its rider and must be familiar with the aids before it can be expected to be obedient. Its response to the aids is therefore based primarily on systematic familiarization; with increasing practice it learns to pay attention to the aids. If it is treated correctly, the horse thus gradually arrives at willing obedience.”
The word “willing” is very important, because the horse’s got to WANT to behave
rather then be MADE to behave.
Willing obedience is always better than forced obedience.
If you have a vision for yourself and your horse and you want to have a good relationship, achieve something or reach some level in your chosen discipline, then you have to be a good leader to your horse.
True leaders have the ability to care, to give their horse what he needs and to connect with their horse so they can teach him the things he needs to know.
In my opinion, leadership is mostly about growth and progress:
- It’s the capacity to create a safe and comfortable environment where your horse is able to learn new things.
- It’s the ability to influence your horse’s behaviours and action in a positive way.
- It’s the quality to be able to motivate you horse to do things.
- It’s the ability to improve his skills and to develop his talents in your chosen discipline.
In my experience, there are three basic leadership styles.
Styles of leadership
A leadership style is a manner and approach of providing purpose and direction in your life with your horse.
I define the three major leadership styles as:
3. Hand over
It has been my observation that good leaders use all three styles, and less successful leaders tend to stick with one style.
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Most horses are born to be a follower and born to be submissive, because there can only be so many herd leaders. Therefore horses do not want to be your equal. They are looking for a leader.
Straightness training is most effective when the horse sees you as a leader, because your horse will follow you, respect you, trust you, feel safe and he will be docile, obedient and accommodating.
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Whenever you are doing straightness training, always introduce your horse to his environment before you introduce him to the exercises, especially in clinics in a foreign environment.
In the beginning, put yourself between the risk (audience ) and the horse, so your horse has the feeling that you -as a true leader- protect the two-headed herd. Then the horse feels safe, starts to relax and you can get to work.
And remember: Leaders keep an eye on the environment, followers keep an eye on the leader.
So don’t switch roles if your horse is nervous