A Guide to Teaching your Horse Patience

A Guide to Teaching your Horse Patience

It can be very challenging to teach an impatient horse. We all know an example: a fidgety mare who doesn't lead or tie nicely, or a stallion that's dug a hole by the hitching rail deep enough to plant carrots. This guide will show you how to teach a horse to stand quietly, get rid of the frustration, and learn to be patient. There are many reasons why a horse may appear to be impatient, with fear, confusion, and dominance being the main causes.

The fearful horse:

Many horses fear being tied, making them fidgety and anxious. Before assuming that your horse is being impatient, test for a pull-back response, typical of a fear of being tied, by seeing if your horse yields to a halter. Try backing your horse, then stopping, holding the lead rope still. Watch the horse's response when the halter starts to put pressure on his poll. If he does not halt, but starts pulling back faster, you know that fear of being unable to escape is what is making your horse restless. This calls for a back-to-basics approach, working on halter yielding, then carefully graduating to standing with the lead rein looped around a post in a comfortable environment with some food, until you reach a stage where the fear has been overcome and you can start tying your horse properly, for longer periods of time.

The confused horse:

Some horses simply do not recognize that you want them to be patient when tied. They paw and move just because they are bored and do not realize that this is wrong. This behavior gets worse when the trainer is constantly commanding them to stand while they are moving, as you're rewarding the horse with attention when it is being naughty, even if it is negative attention. In this case, to teach it to be patient, ignore the horse when it is impatient. When the horse stands quietly, even for a few seconds, say "stand" in a calm, commanding voice, and offer it treats and attention. As soon as it starts to shimmy around again, stop and go back to ignoring it. This way, it will start to associate the command "stand", and attention, with the action of standing still.

The dominant horse:

Some horses become bored when tied, and will start pawing, whinnying, or shimmying around to try to get your attention or even get you to untie them. These same horses will often be pushy in other ways, getting up in your space when being led and rushing their paces. Horses like these are dominating you. They need to learn that they cannot make you do what they want. Again, ignore the impatience, and focus on praise and attention when they are standing still. Really difficult horses may need to stand tied for hours on end in this way to learn to be patient. Of course, it is important to also work on patience while leading: if your horse gets in your space, immediately stop and back him a few steps before going forward again. Repeat this until the horse learns that pushing you only gets him further from his goal, and he has to be patient to get anywhere.

When teaching a horse patience, it is important to practice everyday, and to keep being consistent! The result will be a safer, happier horse that stands and leads quietly, displaying the virtue of patience. Happy training!

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