Thursday, June 11, 2009

Balancing Gentleness and Firmness

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.


Barbara said...

I totally agree with Clinton on this. You must have respect and trust from your horse just like your child for your and their own welfare. Because my son was literally raised in a barn, I wanted him to respond quickly and without question to directions because it could be a question of life and death if a cow or horse was in the wrong place. He had plenty of time to play too and grew up with goats and kitties and puppies as well as calves and foals.He says people cannot believe the childhood he had and he loved it. He came through without incident, lots of adventure and fun. THis is how I approach riding and working with livestock, patience and respect on both sides.Sometimes people think the consequences of disrespect are too harsh but so are injuries and death.

kolbe said...

This is so true. I have a 10 year old Morgan. Trailer loading has been a problem. I have been using Clinton's method, but still was having a problem. I found that he was "pushing my buttons" and that once I said that enough was enough, that was the end of it.
So, while "pressure and release" and "working and resting" methods all work in certain places, the "gentleness and firmness" method are also very helpful depending on the horse.

Get Real said...

Many horse owners do not want to admit that they have failed in someway when their horse displays an unwanted behavior. They fear that someone will say they are too hard on their horse or do not know how hard or soft to be. Then they turn the horse over to a good trainer that will get results before the horse becomes dangerous; only to find out that an ignorant on-looker tells someone else that the trainer was heavy handed. Next thing you know, animal activist get wind of this and try to ruin a trainer's good reputation by exaggerating the truth. If you go back to the owner of the horse and ask if he is happy, he will say yes, but the animal right activist call this owner a careless owner. You just can't win sometimes.