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I'm Not Brave

by Treble Ranch 4 years ago in horse

I'm just like everyone else.

Remarks I have gotten regularly since the beginning of my riding career include "You're so brave!" or "I would never get on that horse!" or even "You're crazy!". While the latter may be true, I struggle daily to explain to fellow riders that I feel the same way as they do when a horse rears up in my face or bolts under saddle. It is not a matter of fear, it is simply a matter of how you choose to respond to the emotion.

While most turn around and run away or lash out, I have been conditioned both by my own experience and the guidance of my trainers to relax. As I'm sure you can imagine, releasing that tension and fear when your life is at risk can be incredibly challenging, or even impossible. However, it has proven time and time again to be the safest and most effective way for me to deal with high-strung horses as well as ones who are just regularly or intermittently difficult.

Now, I am not admitting to never panicking or lashing out at a horse that is threatening me. There are times when I lose control as well, like everyone else. However, I find that these negative reactions tend to aggravate the situation and do not encourage a recovery for the horse or rider. The times I have lost my cool with a horse who was misbehaving or showed fear are those where I was injured. Just recently I was kicked by a horse because I responded to nervous energy by smacking the horse on the hind end. While this is CLEARLY not an appropriate response on the horse's end to discipline, I only elevated his nervous state and encouraged action on his part. If I had simply walked away or searched for what had him reactive in the first place, this injury could have been avoided.

The first time I learned the power of remaining calm in a nerve-wracking situation was with a troubled warmblood mare I was working with about 4 years ago. She was very respectful on the ground and sweet...until you sat on her back. She would grab the bit and trot or canter as fast as possible, leaving me barely any power to stop or steer. In addition to her need for speed, she had a bucking problem. While I suspected it was caused by physical pain or a deformity, the owner was not interested in a vet exam so she would buck every few strides at the canter. While I had no problem sitting them, it was obviously a very annoying habit and I would never be able to ride in public until it was fixed. I tried stopping her, whipping her, kicking her, yelling at her, circling her, and everything else I could think of. Despite endless tack and training attempts, I eventually gave up. Suddenly, the bucks decreased in size and frequency. When I began to continue riding through the bucks and simply ignore them, she decided it was no longer worth the effort. Who wants to spend all of their energy kicking their legs up in the air when they get the same reaction from simply walking on a loose rein?

This finding was also reinforced recently while riding an upper level dressage horse with a bit of a sticky go button. When I put my leg on to incentive the horse to go forward, he would throw his head in the air and threaten to rear. It took a few tries and lots of yelling from my trainer, but he eventually went forward when I took my leg off and waited for him to move forward on his own, asking only with little motivational taps with my heels. When I refused to accept his challenge, he gave up on picking the fight in the first place. Since this realization, all of the information I've accumulated about this topic over the years fell into place.

The bottom line is that even with horses, you have to be the bigger person. They may start the fight and constantly beg you to hit back, but you have to walk away. That is the only way you will truly earn their respect and put a stop to the bad behavior. You have to take away the power they have over you, the power of fear.


Treble Ranch

Small horse rescue with BIG dreams

My motivation lies in my passionate belief of second chances, and the fact that every horse deserves at least one!

For more information check out my website:

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