A common problem when you first start showing off your horse’s new tricks is ‘Stage Fright’.
It goes like this…..Your horse performs a trick perfectly and promptly when it’s just you and him (or her). But tell some friends what a wonderful trick horse you have, invite them around for a demo and it’s almost as if your horse never knew the trick!
Some horses don’t mind how many people are around or what is going on, but the majority of horses will see this as a new situation and at the very least will be a bit distracted. Your horse may also be nervous about having extra people around. To a horse, extra people can mean something is about to happen eg a visit from a vet or farrier; two very necessary professionals but people that your horse may not like or is worried about.
You could also be nervous or anxious about showing the new trick and your clever horse to your friends. We all know that horses pick up on nerves and your mood.
I read an old book recently and it talks about horse personalities and how a different style of training is required for each type. I think it is important to find out what type of horse you are working with so you can adjust the way you train to suit the horse personality.
The book talked about how all horses could be classified under one or a combination of two or more of the following types:
Type 1. Teachable, docile, kind Type 2. Stubborn, wilful Type 3. Nervous, ambitious, determined Type 4. Treacherous, ill-tempered, resentful
I think I have owned, or worked with several of all these types. I think Type 4’s are made that way (badly treated) rather than born that way.
The book recommends Type 1. as being the perfect Trick Training horse. My horse Trigger is definitely a Type 1. horse. He is very dependable, docile and nothing much bothers him. He is very trusting and trustworthy and I can present him with all sorts of new things and it doesn’t take him long to accept them. He can be a bit lazy and prefers tricks that don’t take much effort or moving around, for example lying down 🙂
However I have owned a Type 3. (a thoroughbred) and it would be hard to find a horse that learnt quicker or was more responsive. He tended to be nervous, flighty and worried about a lot of things but he was so switched on and aware of his surroundings that he would pick up the slightest cue and respond immediately. These types of horses aren’t for beginners. I had to be careful how I moved around him, he didn’t like being confined and I had to introduce him to new things very slowly.
I also remember a Type 2. with fondness. She was a really good horse to work with – while she was happy doing what she was doing – but ask her to do something that she didn’t want to do and she would plant all 4 feet and just wouldn’t move. No rearing, bucking, kicking or fuss…..she would just stand stock still and that was that. I hate whacking horses but even a good tap on her backside wouldn’t move her, in fact she just planted her feet further into the ground. The only way to get round her was to convince her that she really did want to do what I was asking her and then we got somewhere.
I’ve come across quite a few Type 4. while working in various racing stables. Horses that don’t want to be there and this can bring out some nasty habits and behaviours. Luckily I’ve never owned one of these.
I’ve also met or owned some that are a combination of two types. Some traits don’t show themselves until a horse is put under pressure or into a particular situation.