What was surprising to me was that the #1 amount of replies said their horse was stubborn. Bucking came in second. Although I'm sure that bucking, as performed by the horse, in many of the replies also falls under stubborn as it's your horse doing something you don't want - really! Duh - and he's still insisting on doing it. I have a really long list that I will tackle in order.

I’ve compiled and condensed 11 of the responses to my question on fb about people’s #1 challenge with their horses.

Here are the pertinent parts of what they wrote pursuant to our conversation about a “stubborn” horse. And based on the amount of replies that included issues that relate to “stubborn” I’m sure that many of you who didn’t write will find yourself reading about yourself through someone else’s experience.

Here we go:

  •    My 3 yr old is very stubborn, plants his feet, I can kick his sides forever-he could care less.
  •    Mine thinks he’s the boss.
  •    Mine decides he needs to bolt up narrow switchbacks and when I say “no” he makes mean faces and threatens to buck me off so up we bolt.
  •    Mine won’t cross bridges first.
  •    Mine constantly battles me for dominance and bolts.
  •    Mine won’t move forward and rears when asked to.
  •    Mine scares me as when I ask him to go forward he humps his back and will rear.
  •    Mine won’t leave other horses and will back up like a speeding freight train if I try to make her.
  •    Mine hates to go to the right on the lunge. He just stops and turns his butt to me and refuses to go. Or goes the other way.
  •    Mine won’t canter and is headstrong.
  •    Mine dislikes schooling. He’s sluggish and his teenage expression says, “If you think you can make me.”

A HUGE thank you to all of you for taking the time to write and I hope are truly looking for change in your horse, horsemanship and relationship.

Here’s the juicy help.

The first step in this journey is: FINDING YOUR WHY.

Yep! Is your response, “What? My Why? What are you talking about Lauren? And how is that juicy?”

Now, I’m pretty sure that many people would rather go out to the barn, clean their horse, tack her up, do some preliminary work before mounting, mount up and then want someone to tell them to pull the left rein while using the right leg along with the seat bones here and focus your eyes here, than take a few minutes to do this part of the process. GO HORSE – NOW! Do this!

Sadly, that’s why the problems still exist. It’s actually easier to spend and hour of physical ‘work’ than to choose to attack the problem at the root, which is the mindset. Might I just throw in some fun here? This challenge is about the horse being STUBBORN right? Who’s being stubborn?

Does reading this previous paragraph get your back up? Tweak your jaw? Are YOU bracing against my suggestion?

Let’s ponder that all I asked is that you consider WHY you want your horse to be different. Seems like such a small request, yes? And you won’t do it…

And let’s say you’d like it if your horse stood still for 1 second while you swing up and she won’t… after all, we’re talking about 1 second here, yes?

Stubborn horse!

Here’s a copy ('cuz I'm here to help and don't want you to have to look ALL the way to the top to refresh your memory) of the above “stubborn horse” list: My 3 yr old is very stubborn, plants his feet, I can kick his sides forever-he could care less. Mine thinks he’s the boss. Mine decides he needs to bolt up narrow switchbacks and when I say “no” he makes mean faces and threatens to buck me off so up we bolt. Mine won’t cross bridges first. Mine constantly battles me for dominance and bolts. Mine won’t move forward and rears when asked to. Mine scares me as when I ask him to go forward he humps his back and will rear. Mine won’t leave other horses and will back up like a speeding freight train if I try to make her. Mine hates to go to the right on the lunge. He just stops and turns his butt to me and refuses to go. Or goes the other way. Mine won’t canter and is headstrong. Mine dislikes schooling. He’s sluggish and his teenage expression says, “If you think you can make me.”

So, what’s your WHY? Why do you want your horse to do as you say, nicely? Sounds like a stupid question doesn’t it? Still, what’s your answer? If you want your horse to do something FOR YOU, you should probably know why, so you have a better idea of HOW to influence your horse and show her WHY she should care.

WHY should a horse care what YOU want?

THEN we get into the WHAT. What is going on? What is happening? What can I do about it?

After that we move to the HOW! How do I do this? How do I implement? HOW do I learn these skills and techniques? Then of course, the WHEN. Having a hammer and using it to pound a nail in the bottom of your boat isn’t a good idea. You must know why you want to hammer that nail to effectively mend or re-build the holes in your boat.

 Now, I’m quite sure that many people reading this will say, as one person did who replied to someone’s response who wrote on the actual post instead of a private message – SPURS! This guy wrote. My reply of course:

BIG FREAKIN’ NO!!!  Doesn’t work. You may get the horse to budge, but you’ve really created a bigger problem.

For best results, one of the questions to ask while working with a horse is: How can I help you? Yes, you are asking the horse this question. Maybe they stay quite, but if you try to puzzle out how you can help your horse understand what you’re asking and why you want her to give it a try, you will become much more of a successful horsewoman. You will be thinking thru “the ask” to the mindset, to the shift and movement.

Brian Tracy said, “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?”

Which one are you?

In this first part on the concept of stubborn and what to do about it, I’m giving you some different ways of looking at the situations so that you can choose more wisely when attempting to influence your horse to higher training. Understand though, that this article is just the tip of the iceberg. These concepts are life changing and while simple, incredibly difficult for people. It’s much easier to have someone tell you to spur the horse than it is to change your mind about why you would want to spur her or not. And then we must consider the ramifications of doing so. But, then let’s ask: Why is spurring a horse easier? It isn’t really.

So, the first step is to look at the horse and why you think it’s being stubborn so you can ask: How can I help you? How can I come up with ways to influence you in the manner that appeals to me also? If it were a person, you would have to do this, true or true? Or be unsuccessful. 

If it's you, do you have your hair up? Are you thinking I should be giving you better help? Do you need a different method of convincing?

Probably. And that is exactly what I'm hoping you'll give some serious thought to. It will change your horsemanship. I hope you give it a shot. And if you don't, consider your horse may be taking the same thought process with you and "being stubborn."

As a horsewoman firmly on the Exceptional Horsemanship journey, I help people who are struggling with these types of challenges with their horses by offering a variety of programs available online and on the phone that specifically address the concepts of willing partnership. This is not to be confused with mistaking kindness for weakness, however. When they work with me they get the results of a horse that understands and is willing to do what you ask, when you ask it – NICELY!

If you’re interested in pursuing Exceptional with your horsemanship, please click here to look at some of our options to get you there!