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An effective rider will know how to reward their horse for desirable behavior and correct him when he misbehaves. It can be very tricky to communicate with him so he understands what you want and don’t want. You’ll want your horse to trust you, which makes it important to be careful in how you respond to his actions.

The Reward

You can encourage behavior through a few different rewards. Horses are food motivated and treats, such as a carrot or apple, can help him know he did something good. He will likely pick up on this and try to do it again. Another way is through petting or patting him on the neck or shoulder. It should be followed with a pleasant “good boy”. Releasing the pressure is a huge reward for horses. When you are riding him and ask him to lower his head or move forward off your leg and he does it, then it’s essential you release the pressure you were applying. You will show him he did something right. It’s a great idea to allow him a walk break when he performs a new maneuver correctly. This relaxation time is enjoyable to him and shows him he has done the correct thing.

The Correction

In a few cases, it will be necessary to punish or correct a bad behavior. Horses respond much better to positive reinforcement, but sometimes they need to be reminded you won’t put up with dangerous or naughty actions. Timing is everything. Your horse will need to connect the punishment with the less desirable response he gave. A punishment can be as simple as redoing the exercise, or, more severe, like a smack from your riding whip. What’s most important is figuring out why he is misbehaving. Is he confused? Does he need more turn out time? Are your requests reasonable for his experience level? Every rider must be a trainer of sorts. You must stop and reflect on how to encourage or extinguish certain behaviors.