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Every horse crossed water but Gene's. Gene got so upset that his horse wouldn't cross that he began booting his horse in ribs. That poor horse wanted to comply with Gene's request but running water scared him. The horse was spooking.
The horse paced back and forth, occasionally sniffing water but never crossed it. The whole time Gene's legs were wildly kicking horse trying to get him to cross - yet horse remained spooky.
What Gene didn't realize is horse was fearful and needed his help. Anytime a horse is fearful of a place or a thing he should be reassured with pleasant, soothing voice sounds and/or petting him.
If you do what Gene did, you just gave your horse another thing to fear. Not only does that horse fear crossing running water, now he fears he's going to be punished for it. And it's likely that anytime horse comes upon running water both fears will crop up and Gene will have a horse that would like to comply but his instincts are so powerful that he probably won't (unless Gene figures out what to do)
Think of it from horse's point of view.
You're a horse that cannot reason and you're instincts are self-preservation. What keeps your self-preservation in check is built-in fear. Fear makes you run from danger. Fear is what keeps you alive. If you don't understand something you fear it even more.
Now knowing all that, imagine you're horse and you're standing at edge of river. You won't cross it because you think there's danger in it somehow. On top of that, someone is on your back, pissed off and kicking you in ribs because you won't go forward.
Not only are you scared of water, but now you're getting kicked in ribs and feeling punished. You want to be obedient and go forward but your instinct is too powerful and tells you not to.
It would be like telling a scared child who just saw a scary movie that he had to sleep in his own damn room.
But what if Gene had understood his horse was scared? What if he helped his horse deal with his fear.
How would he do this?
When Gene and his horse approached water he could have spoke to his horse in a pleasant, soothing manner. When horse was getting scared Gene should have recognized it as fear and not as disobedience.
He could have petted his horse to reassure him all is okay. He could have talked to his horse in a pleasant manner. He could have let his horse sniff water and check it out on his own.
Instead, horse was now confused, scared, feeling punished, less trusting of his rider, and who knows what else.
But if Gene would've recognized fear in his horse then he could have helped his horse overcome it. Gene lost awesome opportunity to gain a significant amount of horse's confidence and friendship in that river scene. Too bad too. That's a beautiful paint horse.
Andy Curry is a nationally known horse trainer and author of several best selling horse training and horse care books. For information visit his website at www.horsetrainingandtips.com. He is also the leading expert on Jesse Beery's horse training methods which can be seen at www.horsetrainingandtips.com/Jesse_Beerya.