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The Right Mindset For
Dealing With Horses

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get the right mindset? I really need some help on getting a confident mindset that overcomes the nervousness I might feel. Thanks.

Since the scope of the question seems to be directed to horses and placing yourself in the herd leader position or at the top of the pecking order we can answer the question in three parts.

The first part in developing the right mind set is to not worry about what might happen. There is a common saying, “98% of the things I worried about never happened.” The percentages vary depending on who says it but they are always very high. The reason for the percentages are always very high because the saying is true.

Notice I didn’t say not to plan for things that might happen, I said, “Don’t worry (fret, stew, dwell) about something.” We simply say, “If this happens I will do this.” That way we are prepared to deal with the possibility and it won’t stop our progress because we will still be moving forward. This attitude is the US Marine credo: “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.”

Moving forward is the key.

The second part is to build our confidence.

Confidence allows us to move forward. Confidence is knowing no matter what is expected of us we can fulfill the expectation. This why the Bonder is so successful because it exercises the horse’s confidence by showing it it already knows exactly what to do because it has been doing it all its life.

Now then, if confidence is knowing you can do something, the way to increase your confidence is to increase your “knowing.” Simply speaking, you increase your knowing by increasing your knowledge. The more you know about something the greater your confidence is in that area.

We build our knowledge, which is the foundation of our confidence, by learning all we can about our subject.

We build our confidence, our mindset, by using and testing our knowledge. By testing our knowledge we can see what works, what doesn’t and what needs to be modified.

This testing increases our knowledge and as our knowledge increases our ability to use the knowledge should grow as well.

We have studied the herd dynamics and we understand how they work. We have discovered horses reacts to certain actions in set ways. We have discovered we can present those actions to the horse and have it respond in a way that is to our advantage.

Now then, having acquired knowledge we further develop our mindset by being determined to use that knowledge to our advantage.

Here is the third part of developing the right mindset - how we look at things.

It is to everyone's benefit that we control what happens in the herd when we are in it. The horse only has one goal; to do whatever it can to fill its needs or desires in the now regardless of what others think or do. Ten minutes ago means nothing, ten minutes from now means nothing, it is only the minute the horse is actually in that it is concerned about.

Since we are the life of the herd we must be its leader. If anything happens to us chances are very good the herd will be broken up and sent on down the road where who knows what will happen to it. So therefore, we must be the herd leader.

Since we understand the future and its importance to the survival of the herd and we also know how to control the future, as much as it can be controlled, our knowledge gives us the ability to think in ordered steps. Since we have this ability and horses don’t, this gives us the confidence to use our knowledge. All we need is the determination.

Determination means we have already determined what is going to happen and we are not going to accept anything else. We have, in effect, seen, or visualized, the result. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not, “I’ll believe it when I see it!” it is, “I’ll see it when I believe it!”

Developing the right mindset is merely setting our mind on the outcome we want to obtain our goal.

We tell ourselves, “It’s my way and there is no highway!” We tell the horse, “You will do what I want!” “I pay the bills! I do the work! I call the shots!” “I AM THE HERD LEADER! Period. End of story!”

Another list member writes...

Reading this post this morning was just the subject I needed to see. I spent 3 hours trailer loading yesterday with my Mare and could only get her half way in. I actually took a break half way through and put the Mare into the round yard and did a bonder. She responded quickly and followed me as her leader but when I went back to the float I still couldn't get her to follow me in. I have previously floated this Mare without incident until one day I was picking her up from agistment and she hesitated when loading as she always did. She was slow going in but would always go in of her own accord and when I say slow it's only a matter of a few minutes. I would just use the fluid reins and she would load. But, on this occasion there was a crowd, oh no the dreaded crowd watching and waiting....Soon enough one of the people there started to hurry me up and telling me what to do. My anxiety went up and then the Mare started to show the whites of her eyes. Finally this person came into the float and grabbed the lead and tried to take over. I asked her to just leave me alone but she couldn't understand why I didn't want help. Finally she ended up grabbing a whip and hitting the Mare on the rump. She flew up into the float with panic and I knew from that instant I had a PROBLEM...Oh yes, next time I went to float she wouldn't load, no surprise to me, so I spent 2 weeks every day training her to self load. I put the float in her paddock and fed her inside, she would run up the ramp happily and eat in there. I then trained her to load up so I could stand by the side and clip the tail latch on. All good! But, a month went by and the next time I went to load her she would go in but then rush back out. It took half an hour to finally get the tail latch on quick enough. But she now has the panic in her that she is going to be locked in. So, now I'm back to square one! It's so frustrating I could cry. Any suggestions???

First, let's look at the sequence...

One, a crowd gathered. "oh no the dreaded crowd watching and waiting"

Two, "My anxiety went up and then the Mare started "

Three, "this person came"

Four, "I knew from that instant I had a PROBLEM..."

Five, sure enough, we have a problem "next time I went to float she wouldn't load, no surprise to me,"

This sequence shows a mental attitude development. A negative one, but a mental attitude none the less.

You continued loading when the task became dealing with the crowd. You kept on loading when the task became dealing with insistent help. You continued loading when the control transferred to the "helper." You continued the loading while focused on the distractions.

And, you convinced yourself you had an ongoing problem. Remember, it's not "I'll believe it when I see it!" it's "I'll see it when I believe it."

It was your trailer, your horse and you had every right to calmly and confidently say, "My trailer (float). My horse. You WILL stay out of this or I WILL call the police."


Throw time out the window. If you only have five minutes to do something, it'll take you all day. If you have all day, it'll take five minutes. Forget time and focus on the goal.

Redefine the goal. The goal is not to load the horse in the trailer. The goal is to control the horse at all points and move the control into the trailer. Lead the horse to the point of resistance and stop. Get the horse under control there then matter of factly ask it for forward motion and accept whatever forward motion you get. Control the horse then ask again. It is sometimes helpful to bring the horse almost to the resistance point and then say, "April Fool! We weren't going to go there." After a few false starts to the resistance point go into the resistance point and come back out before the horse can react. What you are doing is "Lead here. And here. Now here." You want the horse to get in a pattern of following the lead.

Look at it as a leading, control exercise and not as a loading experience. If the trailer ends up being one of the points, well and good. If she gets halfway in the trailer then backs out think of it as partial success and be happy with it. If she does this repeatedly learn to anticipate her back up time and back her up before she gets the idea.

Make it leading practice. I once had a young girl tell me she trained her horse to load without it ever seeing a trailer. She said she knew the horse would load anywhere. She said she looked for hard places to lead the horse, she even brought it into the barn bathroom. She said, "I knew he would follow me anywhere and a trailer is somewhere."

Stop trying to load the horse and start teaching it to lead.

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