Five Top Reasons for the Horse and Rider Communication Gaps

I make my living observing horses and riders. And I’ve done my own personal survey over 25 years of training and teaching. I’ve had my share of roadblocks with horses, coached riders step by step through others and, as a show judge, winced from a distance at horse and human meltdowns. 

So here’s the most common things that get us stuck, according to the science and from my experience: 

1. The horse doesn’t understand the cue and the rider assumes he does. 

2. Noisy signals and conflicting aids from the rider 

3. Vagueness. The horse person can’t clearly articulate their specific cue for a specific response. 

4. Emotions block comprehension or clear signaling in horse or human (fear, anger) 

5. The rider doesn’t understand (or care) about the horse’s viewpont - how horses think and learn. 

What do you think? Can you add to the list?

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Comment by Lindsay Grice on January 28, 2014 at 8:44pm

Sandy, that's a good point - motivation. What is the source of the resistance?

(Even as parents we miss the boat when we misjudge the motivation behind the misbehaviour, don't we?) :)

Comment by Sandy Lynn Wallis on January 28, 2014 at 5:58pm

These are all great. The only thing I might add would be mistaking motivation: Thinking the horse is being defiant, when he's really afraid; or thinking he's afraid when he's actually testing your boundaries.

Comment by MagsNMe on January 28, 2014 at 5:13pm

I agree Jackie.  And, I think this is perhaps why some people don't like mares... they EXPECT you to listen to them.  Some absolutely demand it.  My little Havoc is an extremely sensitive child, and you have to take your time.  Thank goodness my trainer recognizes it and is adjusting to him, as it should be.  Horses don't have agendas, and don't care if you do either.

Comment by Jackie Cochran on July 14, 2013 at 5:43pm

After 43 years of riding seriously I have come to the conclusion that the biggest block to good performance is that THE RIDER DOES NOT LISTEN TO THE HORSE.  Once the rider listens to the horse the horse feels empowered and will often buy into the rider's game and suprise the rider with his performance.

The horse is the rider's best teacher, IF the rider listens!  Once the rider listens the horse will often painstakingly point out every fault of the rider that impedes the horse's performance (by resistances.)  If the rider listens to the horse's objections and corrects her riding the horse will improve.

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