Correction vs Punishment Part 1

In this three part article a discussion of identifying the type of leader you are, examples of correction and punishment, and the side effects of each will be covered. To properly maintain equine relationships it is important to be able to look and notice the way you interact with the horses in your life. In noticing your actions, you should then be able to see the horses reactions and side effects happening- which will lead you to see correction vs. punishment. Knowing more about yourself will help you become a more effective communicator and leader for your equine.

Part 1: What type of leader are you?

Let’s take a look at your relationship with your equine to define what type of leader you are and what kind of side effects are happening from this type of leadership. There are two main types of leaders that are easy to point out- the “dictator” and the “friend”, with varying degrees of leaders in between the extreme’s as well. With both of these leader descriptions forming and using a safe learning environment is not an important part of the horses routine. This thought process can get skipped by being in a hurry, putting human emotions onto the horse, lack of knowledge, and more. Both of these extremes will diminish your horse’s state of welfare as well.

The dictator is often times pushy, overly strict or determined, and short tempered. This type of leader creates stress and anxiety for their equine, a lot of times over little issues. Stress can make a simple task become over whelming to the horse and create a blow up or the opposite- complete resistance. Anxiety is created and learned by the routine stress, which slows down the learning process. The anxiety can turn into fear, which the dictator often puts on an object- rather than realizing it’s fear of the dictator’s actions in that moment that causes the fear. The dictator will often result to a type of repetitive punishment to try and resolve an issue. This does not mean that a dictator has bad intentions, they often don’t realize what they are doing. Since horses don’t understand punishment the dictator’s horse will learn how to avoid, ignore, and/or become timidly submissive. This timid act of submission becomes learned helplessness by the horse and hurts their state of welfare.

The friend is often times afraid to harm or upset the horse and wishes for the horse to be their best friend- like in a childhood movie. This type of leader creates a pushy, in your pocket type horse. A pushy and disrespectful 1,000lb animal is dangerous! Pushy horses are often thought of as overly confident, but the pushy horse can also be a fearful one that is looking for leadership. When a problem arises, the friend will try to soothe the situation. Unfortunately, the soothing won’t actually teach the horse- so the same situation will occur in the future. Horses don’t understand our words, so when our actions do not have a clear yes or no answer- the horse is left wondering what the correct answer is.

To be an effective leader preparing your mind and the horses mind for the interactions of the day is an important step. In your daily preparations try to think of your goals, small and big, and your horses goals or routine for the day. Trying to think about what your horses mind naturally focuses on will help you be prepared for the type of mental or emotional animal you are about to work with. These actions help to improve the horses welfare. Interacting with your horse without the mental preparedness will create situations for punishment to easily happen- since your goals will not be clear to the horse and the horse will react accordingly. Using punishment will not help your horse learn and the actions learned will not be the desired ones. These actions cause a lowered state of welfare for the horse.

Now you’ve probably heard similar examples of these leader descriptions by other trainers and how you can use this knowledge to become a better leader. But knowing what type of leader you are will also play an important role in knowing if you are correcting or punishing your equine. In part two of this article the difference between correction and punishment will be discussed. Using correction type training methods will greatly improve your relationship with your horse by providing a better learning environment. This type of environment also helps the horse retain the information learned.

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