The handler spends many hours with each individual horse on a daily basis. The relationship developed between horse and handler, is at times, stronger than the bond formed between the trainer or owner and the horse. The handler becomes an integral part of the horse’s progress, playing a vital part in the correct management and development of your horse.
Horses are highly emotional animals that are dominantly controlled by their right side of their brains, the instinctive side. Horses are predominantly animals of flight. In a fearful environment, they would naturally want to flee, an encoded non emotional reaction. When they are boxed in a stable and are fearful, they can’t flee, they will then most likely revert to defending themselves, usually by means of attack.
Horses generally are highly social animals that are lead by a herd leader. In the artificial stable environment we place them in; it becomes crucial for them to feel safe, experience emotional stability and to be led. They learn from consistency and repetition.
- Handler Aids
Handler aids are divided into two groups, natural and artificial. Natural aids include the handler’s voice, hand and stance. Artificial aids include halters, lead lines and stud chains.
A horse responds to voice command. It is however understood that the tone is better understood than actual words. The horse understands and reacts more effectively to stance and body language than voice. The handler should be familiarised with the Equus language to be able to communicate efficiently with a horse. Your hands become an extension of your intention, acting as a reward system by rubbing and stroking the horse between the eyes, on the neck and just above the whither.
- Control of human emotions
Horses are very sensitive to social behaviour. In their natural environment they act and react on herd behaviour, if one horse flights and flees, the rest will follow. The same interpretation occurs in the stable, on approach by the handler; the horse will assess the situation and respond accordingly. The handler thus needs to be consistent and anchored in emotion and action every day, invariably creating a platform of lasting safety and steadfastness.
- Acts of human aggression and fear
In the wild horses are preyed upon by predators. Due to them being prey animals, they are not able to differentiate between the human emotions, fear and aggression. Both these emotions portray a tense, ‘emotionally imbalanced’ stance to the horse. Your horse calculates them as predatory actions and immediately would react in defence mode.
Handlers normally show fear when they have been given a task without proper training. Handlers that are irritable, impatient and angry should not be allowed the privilege of working with horses.
- Interaction and expectation
The time and type of interaction between handler and horse lay the foundation in the horse’s behaviour towards humans and training. The handler is expected to interact positively towards the horse in a social manner that is understood by horse. The approach is accentuated by the stance, gaze, timing and position of handler. The handler is responsible for creating positive experiences for the horse and to continue building on the horse’s knowledge by adding interactions after successful absorption and response of each lesson.
It is vital for the handler to understand and comprehend when a horse has understood the lesson at hand before moving on to the next stage. Horses are not able to learn in a state of fear. During a state of fear the horse automatically responds to the right side of his brain which instinctively tells him to flee and do whatever is necessary for survival.