Do Not Reward Bad Behavior

Overview
Rewarding bad behavior is the most common mistake people make every day with their horses as well as the other people in their lives. Horsemanship IS leadership, but there can be no leadership if good behavior is not acknowledged and bad behavior is rewarded. It is impossible.
Tip
These photos have captions to express any thoughts I have on the picture. The idea here is for YOU to get ideas, so grab a cup of coffee, darken the room, grab a pen and paper to write notes, and sit back and enjoy. I have more shots and I’ll add them later as I have time.

Click on any picture to see it in full size with the captions. Please enjoy and add any questions or comments below.

[memb_is_logged_in] Discussion:

There are not a lot of pictures here because this is not a visual concept.

Working with other people and horses, I have found that the most common mistake people make is rewarding bad behavior. This is done innocently and with good intentions.

Telling your horse constantly that “It’s OK, it’s alright.” is equivalent to nagging. Learning to say nothing and saying “Good job!” when something is done correctly is a fast track way to connecting with your horse.

This falls under the heading of an extra Irrefutable Law Of Horsemanship because this affects horses in so many different ways based on their personality and your energy level.

You really need to read and understand the 10 Laws of horsemanship. In a nutshell, the order goes like this:

Pay attention. Connect physically. Position yourself for safety.

Become the leader. Know the personalities of the audience (the horses). Seek 1st to understand their wants, needs, and desires. Then have them understand your wants, needs and desires. Pay attention to your energy because it is the only thing you can control. Treat the horse with respect.

Where the rewarding bad behavior comes in is with Law 5 – Become the leader. But leadership can’t come from weakness or fear. Whenever you reach into your pocket for a treat, or use your words in a continuous negative fashion, or elevate your energy, you will NEVER become a leader of the horse in front of you.

Nor will beating or becoming a dictator work.

Silence does, however, work. When the horse is not cooperation, look inside you and ask how your energy level. If you feel it is rising, it will show in every word you say. It doesn’t happen much, but on occasion I have asked horse owners to leave the barn when their horse reacts to something I am doing. The owner’s energy streaks upwards and the horse loses his focus on me and follows the higher energy because that’s what horses are supposed to do. This is especially true for horses that are poor leaders themselves.

If you are worried, they will be to. If you are not, they will not be. It is that simple.

In my business as a veterinarian that just performs equine dentistry, I only use drugs in about 10 horses out of every 100 I work on. Of those 10, 6 need pain medication for extractions. That leaves about 3 to 4 that require drugs just because they have anxiety.

The primary reason I don’t need to use medication while floating teeth (or just about anything else I do with horses) is because 1) I am not afraid, 2) I keep my energy low, 3) I praise a horse for doing the right thing, and 4) I NEVER, EVER reward bad behavior.

Let me ask you this – when you got home from school, did your Mom offer you a bowl of candy and after gorging yourself on them, did she then ask you to do your homework or clean your room? Or did she basically say, if you want to continue living, you will do these things and then maybe I’ll feed you?

Maybe it wasn’t as drastic as that, but I’ll bet you it was not the bowl of candy first! Why then do we walk up to the horses and offer them a treat (cookie, carrot, sugar cube) before we even ask them to put on the halter?!? This action makes no sense AND it encourages further bad behavior.

Here is an expression you may want to latch on to. LOVE DOES NOT EQUAL FOOD!

What love really is is rules, boundaries, and limitations. Then, if these structures are followed and a task is performed to the best of the horse’s ability, then a reward may be given. And this reward does not need to be food of any kind.

When I work with a horse through its pain of a sharp tooth digging into its cheek where a painful sore is located, and this horse “squirms in the dentist chair,” I don’t tell him to “Stop moving or I’ll beat you.” But just as bad is the person telling this squirming horse that “It’s OK, it’s alright” because it is obviously NOT alright. The horse at this point is looking for strength and leadership around him – and that is you. This is no time to stiffen up your posture. It is no time to start nagging him with words he really doesn’t want to hear. It is no time to raise YOUR energy in any way, shape, or form.

All you need to do at this point is to quiet yourself and have the faith that you will be OK and because of this, so will your horse.


[else_memb_is_logged_in]

Please log in to see the pictures and additional content of this topic.

Discussion:

There are not a lot of pictures here because this is not a visual concept.

Working with other people and horses, I have found that the most common mistake people make is rewarding bad behavior. This is done innocently and with good intentions.

Telling your horse constantly that “It’s OK, it’s alright.” is equivalent to nagging. Learning to say nothing and saying “Good job!” when something is done correctly is a fast track way to connecting with your horse.

This falls under the heading of an extra Irrefutable Law Of Horsemanship because this affects horses in so many different ways based on their personality and your energy level.

You really need to read and understand the 10 Laws of horsemanship. In a nutshell, the order goes like this:

Pay attention. Connect physically. Position yourself for safety.

MORE – log in please

Discussion to follow. If you want me to move this up on the schedule, let me know.
[/memb_is_logged_in]

Back to Topics

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.