After watching hundreds of hours of horseman clinicians and being with my horses for hundreds more hours I believe that there are four pillars to building a sound partnership. This is not intended to be an instant formula to succeeding with horses.It is a quick way to view and support the process of developing a productive, safe partnership.
These are the four pillars;
These are listed in order. First you need to earn trust, then build confidence, establish respect and then practice leadership. These pillars are built on a foundation of knowledge of everything you can learn about the horse, the sport you are engaging in and the equipment you are using.
Depending on the situation the pillars take on a different level of importance. When you are just starting a young horse the trust pillar is really important. As you progress to a horse with more experience the other pillars become more important. When developing a new skill with a more experienced horse the confidence pillar is a more critical pillar. The process of building confidence is often referred to by clinicians as desensitizing and others refer to it as preparing. The result is the same really, because we want the horse to be able to handle things and situations without uncontrolled fear. And so it goes with respect and leadership. As you work through a program with any clinician I find it useful to see how the methods they use fit with these pillars. For me it is a way to better understand why the methods they are using work.
Your partnership with your horse is like a building. It rests on a foundation. It is made up of pillars that are linked together by smaller pieces. If everything is put together properly and it is well maintained the partnership will be strong and enduring.