Building Trust + Discipline= Respect

An essential skill everyone must master to be successful working with horses (and actually a lot of  other areas of life as well) is the art of balance.


We hear that term a lot pertaining to horses. A balanced seat. Collected balanced movement. A balanced foot. But the area I am focusing on today is balance in discipling your horse.

We have a great challenge in gaining the respect of our horses…. Too much love, kindness and gentleness (trust building) not balanced with discipline, you’ve got a spoiled horse that doesn’t care to listen to you. Too much discipline not balanced with building and gaining trust and you’ve got a horse that is filled with fear. Also not safe to be around.

One of our lesson horses at the barn is a ten year old gelding with a successful youth & novice youth show record. You’d think he’d be the ultimate example of a “broke”, finished horse. And in a lot of ways he is. He can lope almost in place. He spur stops. He has all kinds of buttons. We love him, he’s plays an important role in our lesson program. But where he is “unbalanced” shows up at the most unoportune times. He was trained in a harsh western pleasure program. When he messes up, or misbehaves he overreacts terribly, thinking we will beat him. He has developed all kinds of neurotic habits of chewing on his tongue and gaping in the mouth. He still has fear in his heart.

Too much discipline, not enough trust.

We’ve all seen the spoiled horse rooting his nose out, heading wherever he pleases without a care of his owner’s space. Or my old 28 year old mare I’ve had since I was a kid who drags me all around the barn. (My bad…but she’s sooo old!)

Too much “love”, not enough discipline.

Recently my boyfriend has been teaching me to kayak. While floating down the river I got to thinking about balance. To far to one side or the other and you tip over. You have to stay in the center and shift your weight slightly from one side to the other. (Not that I have mastered this!)

Think of  tight rope walker walking a thin rope walk high above the ground. They are adjusting their weight from one side to or the other to find balance. It’s a constant, never ending task.

Respect from your horse is probably the most important key to success with your horse, no matter what you are trying to achieve with her. But as the old saying goes respect must be earned and can not be forced, I believe being aware of and striving daily to perfect this important balance between kindness and discipline will help us to earn the respect we need to achieve the connection we desire from our horses.

One Response to Building Trust + Discipline= Respect
  1. liz hines
    September 25, 2013 | 5:51 am

    i completly agree. a few yrs back a woman came to me her horse “danny” had started behaving poorly bad additude charging biting. if she couldnt find a trainer to help danny she was cinsidering putting her down because age had gotten dangerous to be around. i truthfully was hesitant even a bit acared. i decided i would try what i could but made no promises.
    she dropped danny off the next day i grabed my lungeline w a chain. this woman freaks out tells me danny has never had a chain on she was trained using only natural horsemanship, parrelli and praise. to stay more positive . so i let her get her horse out. danny steps out is asked to move her shoulder over and instantly reachs over and bites her owner in the thigh. the most mind blowing thing of all… the woman yells out in pain which shocks the horse she throw her head up. and this woman apologizes and pets this horse… ling story short after alot of work danny became one of the bwst show horses i ever had the pleasure of working with. i traded a promising 3yr old for this horse on the agreement she take lessons with me regularly. she never was able to safly handle danny again danny needs a firm confident handler who will not take any of her crap n trust me she trys it.
    moral of the story even though it was with a good loving heart this horse became spoiled nearly to death. balance is key. and iam so glad to finally see someone push that. thank you!! i do hope anyone with the idea thr horse is there best friend or baby or anything of the sort can see that message. i trully fear for the overly positive owners.

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