Last month my article was focused on the confused horse. As a horse’s training progresses the confusion they feel should decrease. There are some horses though that develop resistance because confusion was not effectively dealt with. There are different forms of resistance; it can be physical or mental. Physical and mental resistance can develop individually or together. Resistance can show itself in many different situations; some of them are instinctively reactive while other times it will be a deliberate response. How do we tell the difference? Understanding which form and when it appears will help us learn to deal with it. The more effective we are at dealing with it in a positive way the easier it is to eliminate.
Physical resistance on its own is generally more instinctive and reactive. When a horse gets stressed to the point they feel that they can not cope they can become physically resistant. The degree of physical resistance depends on how stressed or threatened the horse feels. The more stress the more resistant the reaction will be. Resistance can also lead to defensive aggression and an array of evasion tactics from leaning or pulling to bucking or rearing or any other way that a horse feels might be effective in removing themselves from the source of the stress.
Mental resistance is often more deliberate. This is when a horse gets fed up with what we are doing and they decide to say no. Or the horse is so confused and bothered that nothing is going his way that he does not know what else to do to find a release from what we are asking. Mental resistance on its own can be exhibited by refusal, anticipation or they can appear to be stuck and they will not alter their response to aids, even aids they understand.
It is common for resistance that was initially a scared reaction to become a deliberate response when horses learn how to bully us into giving them what they want. This is where mental and physical resistance is combined. It can be very intimidating when horses behave badly on purpose because they have learned to become resistant.
When we are faced with resistance we are at fault not our horse. It is his way of telling us that he is not feeling good about what we are doing. Once we have become aware of the resistance we can start to find the source of our horses stress. To eliminate the problem we need to back track to the point that things stopped going well. This may be easier said than done if it is a resistant horse that has been acquired after the problem was already established. If you can find a trigger point you can established that the horse associates resistant behavior with whatever you just did. If you then break whatever you were asking for down to its most basic form you will probably find the horse is not resistant. Somewhere in between is where the problem lies.
Resistance of one form or another will develop in every horse at one time or another. See it as an opportunity rather than a outcome.
© 2006 Will Clinging