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Punishing a horse…. the nonsense of this!

Punishing a horse…. the nonsense of this!

Even if you don’t want to, it could happen that you’re prompted by frustrations or strong emotions to punish the horse.

With punishing I mean: you use violence to prevent that the horse does something you don’t want or to discourage undesirable behaviour. Violence is: verbal (yelling, swearing) or physical pain. There are however many reasons not to punish!

4 important reasons not to punish a horse:

1. Punishing often hurts.

With pain horses don’t think anymore but react in a reflex, this means: learning moment gone! Let the horse think with you and encourage it to give its opinion, even if this isn’t the same opinion…Horses should be allowed to show their feelings, their frustrations and fears. It is not fair to punish a horse for this. And it’s not fair to punish a horse because it doesn’t understand what we are asking it to do.  It’s important that we see horses as our partners.

2. Punishment often comes too late.

When you don’t punish ON or JUST AFTER the moment of the “undesired behaviour”, the horse doesn’t learn the correct connection.  And as punishment most of the times comes too late, the horse will make a wrong connection, for example: “When I turn back to my human, after I tried to run away on the longe, I get hit, so I will not do that anymore”.

3. The horse doesn’t learn the most important thing.

If the punishment would come on time and the horse does make the correct connection, the horse learns what he isn’t allowed to do but he doesn’t learn what he is allowed/asked to do.

4. Punishing a horse causes fear.

However, in most cases horses don’t associate punishment with the behaviour for which they’re being punished, but they do with the person punishing them! The horse therefore doesn’t learn that he isn’t allowed to show a certain behaviour but he does learn that you’re going to hurt him on unexpected moments and this means you’re not to be trusted! He can be frightened by his “punisher”. Because you lose your patience and your calmness you also come across instable and this can generate defensive behaviour.

Reward instead of punishment

So you see, punishing a horse is pointless. It is better to reward everything that goes well or in the correct direction, and to ignore what is not going as well or to change it to something positive! Always try in everything you do to omit the “I say, you do” way and think from the intention: “Be together, try together & learn together!”

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4 thoughts on “Punishing a horse…. the nonsense of this!


By Georgia on 30 October 2015

What is your opinion on spurs? Would this count as punishment?


By Nick Wright on 31 October 2015

Remember the difference between punishment, a reaction ‘after the event’ and ‘correction’ for your own safety. Hopefully it is not common but if your horse is about to damage you (perhaps run you over) or is threatening you then a physical reaction may not be out of place.
Just another thing to think about. I absolutely agree that punishment is not a good thing.


By karine on 31 October 2015

I would not call that punishment. If a horse runs over you, then you have to explain him not to do it, but that is not punishing, that’s giving him borders and explaining what you want: distance for example.


By Ann Bromley on 23 January 2016

Horses correct each other with body movements. So there is a distinction.

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