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Category: Connection & Trust

A Simple Framework That Explains Your Horse Behavior

Discover why your horse does or doesn't do something to understand horse behavior.

Your horse's behavior might seem complicated at times and understanding what causes different behaviors can leave you scratching your head asking "why?". 

But, in horse training, it's important to understand how your horse's behavior works, how they learn a new behavior and whether or not a certain behavior will be repeated in the future. 

Discovering how to motivate your horse to want to participate with you and be willing to perform the different behaviors and skills that we do want to work on in a training setting. 

It boils down to asking these 2 questions:

#1

Is my horse working towards something that she wants or desires? 

#2

Is my horse working to avoid something that she doesn't want? 

With those answers in mind, what I encourage you to understand is that your work with your horses is not just about training behaviors. 

It’s also about the mindset of the trainer, the perspective and emotions you bring to the training. 

And stepping into that role comes with great responsibility…

Because we have the tremendous ability to influence the emotional state and outcome, experienced by the horse being trained.

Your body language and emotions change how the horse behaves

Your body language, emotions, energy and perspective have the power to change how the horse behaves


A simple framework to help you answer why your horse does something

I’ve called it the C-B-O framework Cue - Behavior - Outcome. 

C - CUE

  • A cue is the stepping stone of communication with your horse. 

  • Cues explain to your horse which behaviors you want, when and where

  • This is you “asking” for a behavior that you want

  • A key thing to keep in mind is that cues trigger an emotional response in the horse

  • These cues can be places, objects, sounds, smells, certain situations and other beings like you, me, your dog or the peacock that lives next door.

B - BEHAVIOR

  • The behavior that we see after the cue is given

  • This is often what we are wanting the horse to “do” or "not do"

  • For example: backing up, standing at the gate, pawing, standing at the block

O - OUTCOME

  • The outcome is what happens directly after the behavior

  • Also know as the "consequence"

  • This is either a “feels good” or “feels bad” experience 

  • That produced either something she wanted or something she didn’t want as the “result of” her behavior

  • Outcome/Consequences can be either reinforcement or punishment

But first it’s important to realize how emotions drive your horse’s behavior and why training from this perspective, changes everything. 

Emotion plays a key role in why a horse does or doesn’t do something.

The brain is continuously learning to help the horse survive and thrive. 

So, the brain is guiding the horse to become really good at paying attention to all the cues (stimulus) and signals around them. 

This is giving the brain information as to how it should behave.  

What's key here is this:

The brain is working to predict the emotional feeling and result this cue will have towards the horse. 

Simply put, the brain is trying to answer:  will this cue lead to good feelings or bad feelings?

Ultimately trying to determine; will this help me survive or might it harm me?

Something I want to feel again OR something I’ll make sure to avoid in the future

This is Emotional Learning at the heart of it.

Each time the horse hears, sees, or experiences a certain cue, the brain has learned to predict a linked feeling of a reward (something she wants) or a punishment (something she does not want) 

The more and more the horse experiences this cue, each and every time the behavior is repeated in association to the cue... and the outcome has the same emotional experience linked to it...the stronger the pathway becomes in the brain.

This neural-pathway will become automatic over time.

This is learning. 

Why a horse wont go into a trailer, explaining horses how wont load into a trailer

A great example of this is a horse who works extremely hard to avoid getting into the trailer. Likely, in the past the brain has learned and linked, the behavior of getting in the trailer will result in a “feels bad” emotional experience and the outcome was undesirable...so it’s on the ‘do not do list’. The horse’s motivation is simple, avoid the unpleasant, fearful, even possibly painful outcome that they’ve associated with the behavior of getting into the trailer. 


Now to circle back and bring this all together...


If you are trying to answer why your horse does or doesn’t do something... 


Whether it’s something you do want to see or an unwanted behavior you’d like to eliminate…


Your steps are to break down that specific C-B-O Sequence:


1

Identify the cue that triggers it all

2

Define the specific, single behavior 

3

Determine the outcome from the horse's point of view

Here is where you’ll be able to identify exactly, what is the underlining motivation for that behavior...

Because the horses behavior is driven by either:

Looking for a reward - activating the “feels good” regions in the brain

OR 

Avoiding punishers or discomforts to minimize negative impact and activation of the “feels bad” regions of the brain.

Whew! I know that’s a little intense.. But it’s so powerful

The more you can understand how a behavior works, where it originates in the horse and what the horse feels in response...and the more you can help your horse understand what you’d like them to do. 

And the more you can actually understand yourself too, and how you can become an amazing part to this partnership.

Downlowd Everyone's Fave Guide!



"My Top 5 - 5 min. Exercises to Strengthen the Bond With Your Horse"

Discover my top 5 exercises to begin strenghtening the bond with your horse. Short on time? No problem! These only take a few minutes each time, so fit them in as you can. They are straight forward, and effective strategies you can take TODAY to begin improving the bond you have with your horse. 

Gaining Your Horse’s Trust Using 3 Simple Strategies

Discover how to build your horse's trust.

If you are anything like me, you got into the horse lifestyle because you love them, love the time spent together, and love all the memories made. 

 

But, like any relationship, it’s important that it is joyful, based on genuine trust and mutual connection — not a fight, a dread, worrisome, overwhelming, fear-based, or lacking trust. 

“Building a connection and trust-based bond with horses is the foundation to everything you want to do and achieve.” 

To build that foundation and gain your horse’s respect, in a fear-free way, focus on the big things first— the core elements that make your horse function. 

Only then can you step into that conversation and start to build a deep bond, mutual connection, and clear communication path that will last a lifetime.

These elements are eternal, profound, and universal amongst horses. 

Instead of rattling off a list of dos and don’ts, I’m going to share the underlying secrets behind strengthening the bond with your horse.

Put these secrets into place, and you’ll be rewarded with the lasting connection, genuine trust, and energizing willingness both you and your horse crave.

you can build your horse's trust using obstacles and unique objects

How does a horse define trust? It's based on their history of positive outcomes either with the object, situation or even the human they are with. Consistently, the horse knows their safety will remain intact, therefore they can now trust.

Understanding Horse Trust

There’s something that tends to come up a lot in life with horses, no matter the stage you are in. So, let’s talk about it, shall we

TRUST.

Most of the time, my inner conversations circle around… “Can I trust this?” 

“This” usually refers to a situation, human, or horse.

Your horse is no different. They are also constantly asking themselves…”Can I trust this?”

A horse who lacks trust will often be harder to train, unmotivated, unwilling, or will have many “issues” or “problems”

Other signs that your horse is untrusting may be running away from you, not standing when you go to mount, uncertainty when presented with new things, and herd-bound/buddy-sour behaviors. 

A trusting horse, on the other hand, will follow you anywhere and hardly flinch at something new.

A trusting horse will be willing to work because she knows you have her best interest in mind.

A trusting horse will be willing to work because she knows you have her best interest in mind.

These horses are attentive, motivated, and quick learners. 

When you build a foundation based on trust, it’s a lot like having a piggy-bank you can constantly pull from in the future. 

Each time you make a “deposit” that bank is getting bigger and bigger. So in training or a sticky situation you have that “currency” to go back and withdraw from.

Theres no such thing as failure when you are building a bond and connection with a horse

3 Secrets for Gaining Trust

Now that you understand why it’s so important to gain your horse’s trust and respect, let’s talk about how to actually do it. Here are the three secrets that will set you on the right path.

Be Predictable

The number one trust builder is to be predictable by being consistent!

Be a Good Listener

Your horse views this very different than you might think. Take some extra time & care here.

Ditch Your Expectiations & Allow Choices

How long is your list of expectations for your horse?

#1

Be Predictable

Be consistent with your energy level, emotions, and how you show up around your horse.

Stay consistent with your communication, always sending and receiving messages in the same way — a way that both you and your horse clearly understand. 

Example: If you step into your horse’s space UNPREDICTABLY, it doesn’t matter WHO your horse is or WHAT you want to happen. You’re setting yourself and your horse up for an un-trustworthy situation. 

This 100% goes both ways.

I’ll bet you’re a bit like me, and what creates a feeling of distrust, is a simple fact that I don’t know what my horse will do next.

I cannot predict her next move…

This is no different from your horse’s point of view. Predictability is comforting for both of you.

Connection and confidence with your horse to go out and ride on the trail

A trusting equine partner is worth more than anything words or numbers can descirbe

#2

Be a Good Listener

Being a good listener is a bit different from your horse’s perspective than you might think.

If I stop all my talking and simply listen to my horse, see, hear and understand what she’s saying… magic happens. 

Humans are verbal communicators.

Talking our natural go-to.

But, not so with horses. They communicate primarily through body language and eye, ear, and muzzle expression. This subtle language can be overlooked if you aren’t paying close attention. 

When you slow down your talking and simply allow the horse to “speak,” you’ll begin to see a shift in her demeanor.

Quickly, your horse will notice that you are understanding them, tuning in to what they are saying, and respecting set boundaries.

It can be as simple as showing your horse, “Hey, I see that you’re nervous. Let’s pause and take the time you need to feel safe and confident again.”  

Increase your awareness of your horse’s language, how she thinks, reacts, learns — and what motivates her to act.

#3

Ditch Your Expectations & Allow Choices

I know this seems a little “out there,” but hang in there with me. 

We often show up around our horses, both with our actions and emotional intent, with a laundry list of “expectations” for how, when, where the horse should act, be, and do.

Now, I’m not saying ditch everything on your agenda. There are important do’s and don’ts your horse must follow to ensure safety.

What I am saying, however, is that we humans tend to be “control freaks” around our horses.

We constantly tell horses what to do and expect a perfect reaction. 

In a sense, it’s a “destination addiction” — we feel like we must arrive at a specific destination each time we work with our horses.

What I’m suggesting is allowing the horse freedom of choice.

A choice to say “no.”

A choice to walk fast or slow when worked at liberty (i.e. loose) in the arena.

Offer a suggestion as to what you’d like them to do, but let them ultimately choose how they respond. 

learn how to do liberty groundwork with your horse

Trust is built in these moments spent with no expectations and freedom of choice.

You as the human have to trust the horse to make a decision and allow her to own that choice and the impacts of that choice.

The horse begins to see trust in you because she is given a sense of empowerment. It builds confidence, and she is more invested in the activity because she chose to engage or participate.

There's is no set value that can accurately measure 'success' when it comes to horse + human interaction

Downlowd Everyone's Fave Guide!


"My Top 5 - 5 min. Exercises to Strengthen the Bond With Your Horse"

Discover my top 5 exercises to begin strenghtening the bond with your horse. Short on time? No problem! These only take a few minutes each time, so fit them in as you can. They are straight forward, and effective strategies you can take TODAY to begin improving the bond you have with your horse.