It is my hope that you are making progress with your training program, diligently keeping a journal, and adding tools to your toolbox. It is important to know that any measure of success hinges on one thing: BOUNDARIES. These are the lines and limits of expectation you set as herd leader. It is difficult to be viewed as believable, respected, and strong if everything you ask your horse to do is up for discussion; because as herd leader, you NEVER NEGOTIATE.
N is for Never Negotiate
First, let me be clear. There is 'Consistency in Teaching' and then, there is 'Never Negotiating'. Although they often overlap, they are not the same thing. Never Negotiating is ALWAYS Consistent Teaching, but the reciprocal is not true. For example, let's say I am teaching my horse to halter and unhalter quietly. She wiggles, moves and bobs her head, so I repeat the process umteen times for how ever long it takes until she learns what is expected. That is Consistency of Teaching. She is learning boundaries. Once these boundaries have been cemented in her training, my expectation rises and she should halter and unhalter willingly.
So then, one day I begin to unbuckle her halter and she snatches her
head and turns away. The truth is, she knows better. So, is this up for
discussion or non-negotiable? Non-negotiable. If I roll my eyes, mumble
under my breath, and go hang up the halter, I have chosen the easier
path, but in doing so I have blurred the lines of accountability and made
much more work for myself in the long run. My inconsistency is unfair and
confusing to her. Setting boundaries takes time and a heck of a lot of patience.
Taking the time to put the halter back on and reminding her how simple it is to
remove her halter with respect shows her that the boundaries are right where
I left them, This is Never Negotiating.
In my experience, most 'negotiations' have to do with manners. Handlers that are just not sure about their own personal boundaries often struggle with enforcing any on their horse. Consequently, respect goes right out the window. Letting a horse lean or push on you crosses a physical boundary. Allowing him to turn his rear to you is crossing a psychological one. It is important to lear how to communicate clearly what IS and IS NOT acceptable, as well as having the tools to enforce it. This makes you believable.
Boundaries cultivate security in your horse, making it sensible for her to trust you. Never negotiating is NEVER a harsh, headstrong, or superior presence. It is a calm, matter-of-fact, this-is-the-way-it-is kind of confidence that actually feeds your horse's trust in you and makes her want to be around you. This is the hinge on which all of your training swings. Consistency of teaching and steadfast boundaries make you a believable leader that can communicate clearly and fairly with your equine partner in a way that she understands, so both of you will have more confidence, courage, & self-control. Good luck and don't forget to have fun!