My mother has a small companion dog named Lilly.
When mum takes her for a walk, Lilly decides where they go and how fast they go.
Mum allows Lilly to stop and sniff under shrubs, walk across the driveway to talk to a neighbour and generally walk wherever and however the little dog chooses.
Mum enjoys these walks and so does Lilly.
They wander along and mum doesn’t have to think too much about what’s going on.
She doesn’t have to think about where they’re going, or when it’s time to go home.
All these pesky decisions are made by Lilly. And when Lilly’s had enough walking, she simply sits down and refuses to go any further, so mum takes her home.
If you watch people walking their dogs, you’ll often see the same scenario played out.
It’s the dog taking their human for a walk, not the human taking their dog for a walk.
Most people are happy with this situation.
It’s easier to let their dog make the decisions than it is to concentrate all the time and correct their dog and teach him to do as they ask.
Many people do the same thing with their horse.
They walk happily along, oblivious to the fact that their horse is slowing down, or speeding up, or wandering off the track.
When the horse stops and looks at something, the handler strokes the horse’s neck and tells him he’s a good boy.
Unwittingly, the handler rewards the horse for stopping and looking.
Next, the handler waits until the horse is ready to move, then off they go again, wandering along until the horse finds something else to stop and look at, or, just like Lilly, the horse decides he wants to go back to the stable, so off they go.
Just like mum, it’s easy for a horse rider or handler to wander along and let their horse make the decisions.
They can walk along feeling happy and relaxed and they don’t have to think too much and they don’t have to concentrate.
That’s fine, until one day, the handler gets the shock of his life because the horse won’t leave the stable, or they ride a mile down the road and the horse decides he’s had enough and runs home.
When a little dog like Lilly is out of control, it doesn’t matter too much.
She’s unlikely to hurt mum or kick someone or run them over.
However, when a horse is out of control, it’s downright dangerous.
Whenever you’re with your horse, you must concentrate all the time.
You must have a definite plan of exactly where you want your horse to move and the speed you want him to move.
This definite plan is demonstrated in my Fear-free Fundamentals Online Clinic.
You must be definite and consistent at all times.
It’s very hard for humans to concentrate in this manner.
It’s difficult to shut everything out and think wholly and solely about your horse.
It takes years of discipline to be able to concentrate fully on your horse and understand what he’s thinking.
Horses, on the other hand, have absolutely no trouble concentrating on what they want to do.
Horses always know exactly where they want to move and how fast they want to move.
If you don’t teach your horse to move exactly where and how you ask, every step of the way, he’ll start to behave like mum’s little dog Lilly and he’ll soon be out of control.