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The nature of the horse has developed by thousands of years of evolution and is literally in the genes of the animal. Training horses should start with a fundamental understanding of the nature and psychology of the horse. This will help you to know why a horse does what it does.
 First and foremost, the horse is driven by survival instinct. It basically reacts to inborn reflex. The horse is a prey animal. And in the wild, get eaten by mountain lions and grizzly bears, etc. So it’s first instinct is to save itself to live another day. It does this by running away quickly. That is why horses have evolved to have long legs and strong muscles, to get it out of danger quickly. This is also why horses startle so easily. Any sudden motion behind it, might be a predator moving to have them for lunch.Thus, horses will have confidence in us and react better to our training efforts if we do not trigger their fear reflexes. While training new horses, we should make every effort not to startle or scare the horse. If a horse is worried about being eaten, it is hardly in the best frame of mind to learn our training lessons. We should do whatever we can to have the horse gain confidence in us, and the fact that it will be safe whenever it is around us. So we move slowly and deliberately around horses we are training and try not to make loud startling noises. The calmer that we can keep the horse, the easier that it will be for the horse to learn the lessons that we want to teach. When you were in school, do you think you would learn well from a teacher who was yelling and running around the classroom??? Probably not. Your horse won’t either.There is a time for discipline with a horse, but it should be like when it is disciplined by another horse. Generally, horses in a herd discipline other horses to stop them from some inappropriate behavior. Such as eating their food or harassing their baby. So discipline should come when you want the horse to stop some inappropriate behavior, not when you are trying to get the horse to do something or learn something. Discipline here will only get in the way of what you are trying to teach the horse.

The next thing to know about horses is that they are social animals that follow a strict hierarchy in the herd. Each animal knows what rung of the leadership ladder that it is on. One horse will be at the top and one horse will be at the bottom and the other horses will be at each rung in the middle. Each horse will follow the rules of etiquette by respecting all the horses above it in the herd. The horses at the top, eat first and decide when the herd will move and where it will go. The lower horses follow.

In training horses, we must be at the top of the herd, even if the herd is just you and the horse. You must be respected by the horse as the leader. The horse will then have confidence in you and respect your leadership. It will be in a frame of mind to pay attention and learn from you. We can establish this leadership by using the round pen or a lunge line. (See our other articles) When you are the leader, others (including horses) look to you for direction. When they feel good about you and have their needs met, you build their confidence in you and your leadership. They will come to you whenever you are around and follow your lead. Just like in a herd, they will seek to please the leader because the misbehaving will cause them to stress/fear over the possible reaction of the leader and horses will try hard to avoid this stress/fear.

Horses are amazing animals. When you think about it, everything we do with a horse is totally un-natural. Restraining an animal that survives by flight with a saddle and rider is a totally un-natural thing. Locking a horse in a stall or trailer when it depends on flight to survive is a totally un-natural circumstance. Imagine how cornered the horse must feel the first time that we try to force it into a trailer. Is it any wonder that it doesn’t want to go in? If a lion comes by, the horse has nowhere to run.Treat your horses like the wonderful, majestic beings that they are. They give up their very core instincts for your pleasure. That’s a lot don’t you think???