When you are together with your horse, during the daily interactions or during training you can talk about a “herd of 2” and just like in a real herd someone has to take the lead….
So it’s important that, when necessary, you can take the lead in this herd of 2. That you can show natural leadership (by the way: this has nothing to do with hierarchy).
Bellow I give some tips to practice better leadership whereby your horse will stay calmer and will become more cooperative.
The ones taking the lead are not afraid to take the initiative. He doesn’t stand to linger to wait, to see what others are doing…. No, he takes decisions and then maintains his focus. By maintaining your focus your horse will notice you are confident and you know what you’re doing. This will give the horse confidence that you can take the lead.
2. Communicate clearly and understandable
When you want that your horse likes to follow your lead, you have to be able to communicate at the level of your horse. Energy and body language are the most important: timing, feeling, intention, position, movement.
3.Make sure you are emotionally stable
Don’t let frustrations and malice surprise you, don’t show any “explosions” because you can’t handle it anymore, don’t get stressed because it isn’t going the way you want it to go. Instead, stay calm and focused at your original goal, even when difficulties come your way. A leading figure always stays well grounded!
4. Don’t reason from the “dominance-theory”
Here and there it is still claimed that by dominating a horse you automatically become a leading figure. This is not true. You don’t become a leading figure by dominating, you do become one by giving the correct example, having a plan, staying calm and confident in every situation whereby others choose to follow you. In other words: you cannot impose natural leadership.
5. Be genuine
This means: be yourself, be honest, don’t pretend to be something you’re not on that moment (your internal feeling matches your external behaviour), and make sure that you intentions are clear and not self-centered.
6. See leadership as partnership
It’s a misapprehension that there is only 1 leader in a group of horses. Some animals indeed will take the lead more than ohters, but research shows that every horse in a group can take decisions/choices and that the other horses will collectively decide wether to follow that decision or not.
So it’s no problem, when handling and training your horse, to give it the lead when possible. Like that I often “follow” my horses through the pasture, letting them decide where we’re going, stopping, slow down, accelerate, …
Even on the street when I take a horse for a walk (in hand) I sometimes let them decide which path to take.
Only when both may and can lead, both human and horse, you can speak of partnership.
It is nevertheless important that you can take the lead back at any moment, especially towards safety. To learn this I advise to start with Liberty Training according to Horsefulness Training and of course Groundwork is also very appropriate for this.
7. Make sure you have 100% trust.
A horse will only follow your lead when it trusts you 100%. That’s why friendship and connection is of great importance. A horse that doesn’t trust you will not like to be with you and will always be looking for a way to get away from you.
That’s why, for me, here too Liberty Training and the 8 connection exercises are the foundation if you want your horse to see you as a natural leading figure. Through Liberty Training you develop a close friendship with your horse and it will trust you like no other. So, first trust and friendship and only then your horse will like/want to follow your lead!