Behaviors Sabotaging the Human and Horse Partnership

What is the most common issue I see sabotaging the human & horse partnership?
I define it as:
When a person is physically trying to "stop" an unwanted equine behavior, which is usually the symptom and not the underlying "issue," without acknowledging and addressing all the constant equine communication reflecting holes in the horse's education or understanding.
How many times have you heard things like:
Block the horse's __...
Don't let him __...
Make him _...
When a person attempts to block, hold, or "drive" a horse they are addressing the horse's physical movement.
His movement reflects his thought, such as:
The scenario is creating stress or pressure so he protects himself with run/bolt/spook...
The movement he is being asked he cannot properly do due to physical resistance, so he counteroffers a different movement (leaking with the shoulder, tossing his head, avoiding the big, locking up his hocks, etc.)
The more the person focuses on the unwanted movement, the more they are making the scenario deteriorate and feel unable to get a change in their horse.
Let's change our approach and start by addressing the horse's brain. This means we have to change from expectations (even negative ones such as "he always...") and demands in our horse and adjust our focus on how we are presenting scenarios and the horse's feedback.
Start by changing the initial thoughts in your head. Each time you have a negative or hopeful comment, exchange the critique for a positive opportunity, such as below:
Sabotaging, unhelpful, critical, and hopeful human thoughts...
"I hope my horse doesn't spook at the corner. It wrecks the whole ride that follows." This defensive riding sets the horse up to fail and just about guarantees the unwanted movement is going to happen, creating fear in both the human and the horse.
Positive, supportive horsemanship
"Several times my horse has spooked at the corner. Before I get to the corner, I need to check in with my horse's brain, emotions, and movement. Can I redirect his thoughts today, or does he seem fixated on each distracting thing happening at the barn? I tried to redirect his brain, but he offered to lean on my rein. Okay, let's pause and ask him to soften to the pressure of the rein. Now he is softer, I'm able to direct where he is looking, but his steps are anticipative and hurried. So now let's work on directing his thoughts first, then asking for a specific movement, then pause (could be mental and/or physical) and ask his brain to check-in. When his brain checks in, his body offers to slow, he offers to be more present, less anticipative. Now I'm going to have him look towards the direction of pressure (scary corner,) and then look away (pressure off.) Oops, his feedback with his body was that he wants to look away/move away, he increased with physical tension, etc. so I don't yet have the "tools" to support him to move further into the vicinity of the scary place, yet. I'll focus on his mental redirectablity first, the moment he shows an interest, I'll draw his thought away from the concerning direction, offering a release from the pressure for his try. Now he can look for a longer period without tension rising in his body, let's take a step towards it (pressure on), and now while he's still interested in the corner, let's change the thought and look away (release pressure)... Ah good, he breathed, blew his nose, etc... Wait, let me assess his physical tension... and help him drain it starting in his hocks, ribcage, shoulders, neck, jaw, etc. Now that he's soft, let's go do something else for a few minutes, and then we can return to this newfound safe space, and gently continue expanding the comfort zone making our way slowly closer to the corner.
You get the idea. There is nothing reactive in how I'd help the horse. Each piece is an Opportunity for assessing the feedback from the horse, which then "tells" me what aspect I need to address to help him sort through his bother.
This is also NOT about repetitiously asking the horse to mindlessly walk back and forth "desensitizing him" to the corner- that is only addressing physical tolerance, never addressing the horse's mental concern and leaves the horse just as bothered as soon as something changes in the concerning area.
Keep in mind, that we may or may not make it to the corner today. But the corner isn't the issue. The horse's confidence, mental availability, and redirectability becoming softer, safer, and willing via the human's support takes priority. The more the relationship is built on thoughtful, specific, segmented communication that has value to the horse, the more scary corners, horse-eating tarps, and claustrophobic trailers are no longer problems.
Every conversation between the human and horse should be consistent and clear with the horse coming away less fearful or defensive, and instead increasingly curious and more confident.

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