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Sometimes it can be hard to know how to handle a difficult horse or situation. The important thing, is that you remain calm and put your horse’s best interest in mind. There are a number of behaviors that you should never consider engaging in. They will have damaging effects on your horse, both physically and mentally. Avoid these five bad horsemanship practices at all costs.

You should never…

1. Hit your horse or use a whip to punish: When used properly, a whip can be a tool of training, but smacking a horse to punish him will just create fear and confusion. 2. Jerk on the reins: This can make a minor issue escalate into a much worse problem when you’re riding a difficult horse. You’ll encourage him to avoid pressure from the bit, which shouldn’t be the goal. A sensitive horse might even rear. 3. Stop feeding your horse: If you’re trying to limit your horse’s food intake to give him less energy, consider another approach. This method of making him tired or drained so he puts up less resistance is poor horsemanship. 4. Neglect warm ups and cool downs: Some people jump on their horse and gallop off right away. You could seriously hurt him without taking a few minutes to warm up his muscles. The same can be said for those that throw a hot, sweaty horse immediately into the field without a cool down. 5. Scream at your horse: Yelling at your horse is counterproductive. You will likely make him more afraid or confused, not to mention draw attention to yourself from other boarders. If you’re are frustrated, then walk away or take a few deep breaths. Many times, horse owners lash out at their horse in ways that are confusing or intimating. It’s essential you stay calm and patient. If necessary, hire an experienced trainer to help you work through difficult situations.