Mutual respect between horse and rider is vital to a good working relationship. But what exactly does that mean?

The problem people encounter with regards to respect is that most people tend to one extreme or the other. On one hand you have people who believe that in order to earn respect from the horse you must dominate him through fear and intimidation. These people believe that in order to get a horse to respect them, it needs to be afraid of them. While we’ve come a long way from the days when horses were tied down and beaten in order to “break” them, intimidation tactics are still very common today. These practices include things such as using gadgets to force a horse into a position, lunging them until they are exhausted, using harsh bits, and inappropriate use of whips and spurs. While these tactics often do achieve results, it is not through mutual respect and there is risk of physical and mental damage to the horse. The handler is not respecting the horse and the horse is only performing because it feels forced to.

Maia learns to respect me as her leader by stopping when I ask, without invading my personal space.

Maia learns to respect me as her leader by stopping when I ask, without invading my personal space.

On the other hand, there are the people that let their horses walk all over them. These are the kinds of horses you see that are constantly begging, dragging their owners around, stepping on toes, etc. This is not respect either and is potentially very dangerous. Horses are very large animals and when they do not respect their handlers, accidents are inevitable whether it’s just a stepped on toe or something more serious. These types of accidents are usually very preventable. This means that you are going to have to discipline your horse sometimes. Just like children, horses can become very spoiled if there is no discipline. Sometimes you will have to be firm with your horse to ensure that everyone stays safe.

So what is mutual respect? It means the handler treats the horse with kindness and patience. The handler does not make unreasonable demands from the horse or use techniques designed to scare the horse or force it to do something.  It also means that the horse respects the handlers space, walks calmly, stops and stands still when asked, and doesn’t charge the gate at feeding time.

Mutual respect between horse and rider will lead to a better relationship and builds trust. This makes riding more enjoyable for both the horse and the rider. Respect is best achieved through patience and repetition. A good, experienced trainer can help you achieve these goals and guide to on the path to a better relationship with your equine partner.

To learn more about how to achieve a better relationship with your horse, visit our website or blog, where we feature information about French Classical Dressage training, as well as care and maintenance of the horse!