The Right Way

I think about this constantly. I had some interaction with a woman who was chastising me for using a wand to direct my horse around me (loose in a turn out, no round pen, no lines or ropes) as he circled me happily. She is an advocate of clicker training.

So am I. I worked at a rescue that brought in Draft mares and foals from the PMU industry. There was an aggressive mare there whose daughter was still with her as a coming 3 year old! I used the clicker schooling (marking desired behavior) and was able to accomplish a lot with the mare to make her safer and help her understand us.

I trained Saddle Seat at one point back east; I rode colts off the track aiming to make them H/J prospects while in Florida; I had a blind retired Eventer that I rode! I worked with 3 year old colts and fillies who had never seen a human being until they were chased into stock trailers and unloaded into my barn aisle! I rode most of them eventually, but it was a long journey to get to the trust.

I rode under Charles deKunffy and trail rode my own mules… there are hundreds of ways to do things with horses and all of them are correct IF they do no harm.

You know why people get adamant about a particular style of training or handling or feeding a horse? It is because they’ve had success with it. That’s all. And because many roads can lead to the same destination, many people have lots of successes. That’s very cool!


I sit here tonight thinking about how new, green horse peeps must feel confused or overwhelmed sometimes (especially with the endless information online) and wonder which is the “Right Way” with horses.

Imagine how confused and overwhelmed horses must feel by our methods! Truth is, horses are beyond remarkable. They can go from “owner” to “owner” and have to relearn or rethink what the signals and responses are from person to person. And try they do – horses want to please us!

If you are working with your horse and you are both safe and happy and understanding each other. You are doing it the Right Way.

Categories: Horse Training, joy, Saving Horses, vision | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “The Right Way

  1. Barb Vandenbush

    I personally do better with clicker, but whatever method you choose will be received in the spirit in which you give it. My horse seems to know my mind before I do, so I must always be careful no matter if I’m using clicker or wand. Onlookers cannot get inside your head or your horse’s to know what connection you have.

    • Exactly, we are all individuals, too! We (the humans) will have more skill with one method or another &, if we’re lucky, skill with many styles so we can use what helps each horse the most! Some things are more difficult for me (my hand was severed & reattached when I was 13) – I love what you said: the method you choose will be received in the spirit in which you give it. Thank you, I just love that.

  2. I am a newbie, with very little hands on experience. In my search to learn how to best work with horses, positive reinforcement training appeals to me because it is force free and it involves the horse as an active participant in the learning process. I have also heard lots of discussion about whether it can be used alone, or whether it’s best used in conjunction with other methods. I guess I’m still on the path of learning!

    • Exactly, Stacy! Horses respond better to seeking reward & positive feedback than to punishment! We teach the Well of Experiences at Dharmahorse: All the experiences in a horse’s life are like drops of water in a well. If they are mostly positive experiences, the horse expects positive things with new experiences & if they have mostly negative, they expect negative. We can keep filling a “well” with positive things; we can flood out the negatives.

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