It feels good to be gentle with a horse but sometimes he needs something else. Just as with a child, a horse sometimes needs to be reminded of who’s in charge and where the boundaries of space and behavior lie. When this is done without anger, without impatience, without emotion of any kind, the horse readily accepts the reminder and becomes more relaxed and willing, not because he’s afraid but because he recognizes that he is in the presence of a competent leader. This makes sense to him because it’s the way things are in a herd.
This is a very difficult message to get across to the riding public. Some clinicians tackle the issue of firmness head-on and refuse to mince words about it. Others dance around the issue to be sure they don’t lose anyone, hoping that the real message laid between the lines comes through. Clinton Anderson walks this fine line about as well as anyone I know. I’ve dug into the archives for a radio interview I did with him several years back on balancing firmness and gentleness. Enjoy.