Sneak Peak excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners, due for official publication in spring, 2010
• The round pen provides the close quarters to begin to develop a rapport and trust with a timid horse. Here, you can establish some basic body language cues supported with voice commands to present yourself as a confident, kind guide while you encourage and reward your steed to tackle future requests with courage. While many contemporary horsemanship methods advocate considerable training time in the round pen, we’re not convinced this is a good approach, and have found it is not effective with timid horses. It’s a good starting point for a few days to see and guide the horse, but not the best environment to bring a timid horse along. Exposing them to various concerns in differing environments with a steady and unflappable nature is more effective in helping these horses blossom.
• Timid horses tend to respond much better to praise than punishment. Most timid horses love a pat or an encouraging voice when they face and conquer a challenge. Conversely, a stern voice and/or training that incorporates stimuli designed to discourage behavior tends to make them more wary.
• Take your time with timid horses. Their condition is often the result of too much, too soon. It’s important to gain their trust, and bolster their confidence, by encouraging them with your steadiness to tackle easy tasks they can understand and learn to enjoy.
• Make early lessons quick and easy for an immediate win. Timid horses blossom and excel after just a few sessions if they have a confident hand and are rewarded for their effort.
• Buddies can be a good tool for encouraging timid horses, but don’t overdo it. While another horse can help avoid some challenges, it’s equally important to establish a trust in the human handler to keep them out of harm’s way. If all issues are resolved by another horse leading the way, the timid equine will not gain the confidence in themselves and their rider/handler to excel.
• Give timid horses the time to process a lesson. Rush them and they will become more concerned and less trusting of you.
• Be fearless with timid horses. They will sense your concern and react. If you can’t be confident, patient and calm in all situations you introduce them to, find someone who can.