Horse Psychology

A Beginner’s Guide to Horse Psychology

The term horse psychology may sound a little far-fetched, but it is a common school of thought that is frequently used by both horse owners and horse trainers. Learning how a horse thinks, learns and behaves is important for anyone who plans to work with and train a horse. Understanding the horse is especially vital for horse trainers who actually want to get the horse to perform a particular task or trick.

Using Psychology to Train A Horse
As with other animals – people included – horse psychology can be very helpful when it comes to training the horse. This is true for any horse behavior, whether it involves work duties, like pulling a trailer, or recreational activities, like trail riding or jumping. In order to get a handle on the mentality of the horse, watch them closely for awhile to get a feel for their personality. Observe the way they react to different situations and stimuli to gain an understanding of how they will behave under other circumstances.

The most basic fact in horse psychology is how the horse learns. While this can vary from horse to horse, it is always something that should be a focus when training any new horse behaviors. Some horses are quick to learn, and you only have to show them what is expected of them once or twice before they pick it up. Other horses may need more time, so it is important to use patience and close behavioral observation when working with different horses.

Horse Training Tips
It may sound cliché, but there is more than one way to train a horse. An experienced horse trainer knows the ins and outs of horse training, so it is always helpful to consult a professional trainer when possible. Most trainers will agree that the easiest way to learn what works best with a particular horse is through trial and error. It is also a good idea to take your time. Never rush a horse into any behavior or training exercise. Always be patient and guide the horse gently and slowly into any new activity.

Whenever a particular training tactic is not working, do not try to force the issue. Simply move onto something else or try approaching the activity from a different perspective. Horses can be incredibly stubborn, so it is unproductive to attempt to push them into repeatedly doing something they simply do not want to do. Pay attention to the horse. If they are becoming disagreeable, move on. The training process is much easier when the horse is in a pleasant frame of mind.

Positive Training With Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is a commonly used horse training tool, and it usually gets very good to excellent results in a fairly short time. Here again, most animals – including people – respond much better to encouragement than punishment. In fact, it can be quite difficult for an animal to understand punishment at all since they may not make the connection between the activity they are being punished for and the punishment itself.

Positive reinforcement and encouragement of desired behavior are easily understood, however, and will frequently lead to repetition of the good behavior that the horse is being trained for. The important fact to remember when training with encouragement and positive reinforcement is to offer the reward directly after the desired activity. The closer the reward comes to the behavior, the easier it is for the animal to understand that they are being rewarded for acting in a certain way. And that is how positive horse training is successful.