Horse Confidence Defined and Explained.
As promised, in response to the recent survey I conducted on my blog, I am going to start to address the questions, topics, and concerns that came through from those of you who participated in the survey.
Today I am addressing horse development in the area of the horse’s confidence. As the foundation, we must first understand what confidence is, and the four areas where we need our horses to have confidence.
This foundational knowledge is important before we can formulate strategies to increase and build a horse’s confidence. In future posts we will consider some of the many patterns, strategies, theories, and opinions on the subject of building and developing confidence in our equine partners.
Confidence is the state of mind characterized by one’s reliance upon one’s self, or one’s circumstances; a feeling of self-sufficiency; such assurance as leads to a feeling of security…trustful; without fear or suspicion; frank; unreserved.
Confidence is the state of being certain about the truth, based on previous experiences, that gives one the ability to know how to handle a situation and choose a good and effective course of action.
Confidence is having a firm belief, trust and reliance upon someone or one’s self. Having freedom from doubt or anxiety. A feeling or belief that one can do something well or succeed at something. Believing in the effectiveness of one’s own abilities. A state of hopefulness and trust in people’s favourable acceptance, or that events, plans, or the future will be favourable.
Identifying Four Main Areas In Which Horses Need To Have Confidence.
- In themselves
- In their leader
- As learners
- In their environment
Spending time watching horses in a herd setting, you will see their individual characteristics, levels of confidence, and how they choose to interact with other horses. But putting that same herd in a new field or change one thing in the existing field, you will observe even more about each horse’s own level of confidence.
In most herds you will have dominant horses, horses that are off on their own grazing, horses that buddy up with another horse and shadow it everywhere, etc.
A horse’s level of confidence in himself is either an innate or a learned quality. Innately, it is his horsenality. Learned quality, it is from the experiences that he has in the herd or in humansville. A herd setting is wonderful for developing confidence in horses in themselves as it provides a natural setting. Humansville too often produces a lack of confidence if the experiences are negative and the human’s leadership is lacking.
In Their Leader:
That needs to be you and me, the human. From the moment your horse sees you coming to the moment when you return him to his pasture and herd, you are his leader. In a herd, horses determine who is the leader every day. So you need to arrive in a leadership frame of mind as your horse will test you.
A horse does not give you his vote of confidence automatically. It has to be earned, daily, and maybe in some cases moment by moment. A dominant horse will test and push against you physically, mentally and emotionally. A playful horse will make up his own games if you are not keeping his mind stimulated. A fearful horse will crowd you, call for the herd, move excessively and uncontrollably. A shy horse will hesitate, move slow, appear lost in himself.
So, what does your horse do when you take him from his herd, from his familiar environment, and start asking him to connect to you? Is he calm, connected, responsive to you as his leader? Does your horse change the moment you have taken him away from the herd and familiar environment?
A horse’s lack of confidence in his leader doesn’t always come across as being afraid. A dominate, pushy horse could also lack just as much confidence in his leader as an innately timid horse. But because a dominant horse has a great deal of confidence in himself it may not be as evident. A horse who doesn’t have much confidence in himself is going to be looking for confidence in his leader. If he doesn’t find it he will quite quickly switch to survival mode and in his mind do whatever it takes to stay alive in a scary or unfamiliar situation.
To learn anything a horse needs to be taken outside his comfort zone. So it is to be expected that he will not be comfortable. When we as a human learner move out of the comfort zone into the learning zone, we can experience feelings of anticipation, excitement, success, accomplishment, or confusion, uncertainty, nervousness, frustration, anxiousness, fear of failure, pressure, stress, etc. When in the learning zone a horse can respond in three ways.
(1) He can get scattered, afraid, and switch to flight mode, his prey animal response to stressful situations
(2) He can become dominate, pushy, or
(3) He can try to figure out the problem, connect even more with you as his leader, and look for direction and answers. Most horses arrive at this level of maturity and balance over time, with proper, consistent training.
In Their Environment:
How does your horse respond to being taken away from his paddock, pasture, barn, or property? Does he know how to observe, compare and respond appropriately, processing the new surroundings and adjust his responses and behaviour accordingly? Or is it a big, challenging and emotional event the moment your horse leaves the property, away from the other horses?
How does your horse handle changes within his environment? The wind blowing a plastic bag through his space? A saddle on the fence that was not there when he left an hour earlier? A unfamiliar piece of farm machinery in his living space? An umbrella going up by a visitor?
The more we expose our horse to change and experiences, the more they are able to accept the unexpected and sudden things that happen in their personal environments. Like with children, the more experiences one has, the more information and memories one has to realize that “I’ve seen this before and survived. This is like that and this is how I need to respond.”
Using this information about these four areas that horses need to have confidence, analyze the strengths and weaknesses unique to your personal horse. Be observant, recognize your horse’s innate horsenality and learned behaviours, and his levels of confidence. This information will help you figure out the strategies necessary to handle your horses lack of confidence and achieve advancing his confidence level. This will lead to ultimate success no matter what the situation, environment and your horse’s frame of mind.
But, what do you do if you have analyzed and observed but don’t know what is the best strategy to handle your not confidant horse, or to help him grow in confidence? As I said earlier my next few posts will be going into depth in regards to strategies to gain and increase your horse’s confidence. So stay tuned!
And remember, I am available to meet with you at Extra Mile Equestrian Centre or at your property or facility for lessons in either horsemanship or horse development. My heart’s desire is to see horses and humans succeeding in their relationship and journey together.
Let’s talk (using the reply section below, or on Facebook…) If your horse lacks confidence, which areas do you see it most? What have you been doing to help your horse gain confidence in those areas?
*Please note, words in blue bold, when clicked on, lead to articles and content that may be exterior sources to this blog. The opinions and ideas expressed in the linked to website, as a whole, may or may not necessarily reflect the views of the authors of this web site. The external sources are provided for further study and educational purposes of those reading this blog.