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Rider mistakes to avoid: Punishing instead of correcting

I decided to start this little series with common rider mistakes with the pure intention to educate and to shine light on something, that you want to see, but you might not see yet.


Because I made all these mistakes and I wish that someone, who knew better than me, came to me and showed me a better way. We normally make stupid mistakes with the horses not because we want to hurt them, but simply because we don’t know any better.

So here we go, my first one from the collection:

Don’t punish your horse, just simply correct him!

I see people punish their horses horses all the time. Slap them, jerk the lead-rope/chain, shout, kick. Horses genuinely want to do the right thing and it’s our job to help them find the way!

The problem: you activate your horses’s flight-fight response right away. You shut their thinking off. I can guarantee you that 99% of the time when you do this, he has no idea why he gets punished, because nobody explained it to him. Quick actions like that just shut horses down instead of making them think and therefore learn from their mistakes.

he solution: just correct your horse. No fuss, just go on with what you were doing before the mistake happened and ask again. Instead of punishing, just reward the right behavior. It’s that simple. And you know what? It works faster. No. Let me write that again: It actually works! Because punishment doesn’t teach anything to your horse, it just implies fear.

And now my most important point: you might not even know that you are doing this. Pay attention to how you work with your horse: do you keep your patience the whole time? Do you offer the same correction every time? Does your horse have a chance to understand what you mean, even considering that they only have your body language to work with and they don’t understand what you shout at them?

I’m amazed how many “horsemanship” programs are built on punishment. How many professionals teach their students to punish their horses. But there are no shortcuts and horses are much more clever than that.

So let’s get better at this together, for our beloved horses!


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