Equitation/Chapter 10

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Caresses and other rewards are the first means by which the trainer makes the horse understand that it has nothing to fear when under control. A horse is by nature timid and anxious; the first step in its training is to give it confidence and to make it understand that it will meet no ill usage. When that is accomplished, the horse is tamed. As yet, however, it knows nothing. Its education advances by means of rewards when it does well, and by punishments when it fails to do something that it has already been taught.

Caressing may be done with the hand alone, or with the voice, or by the two in conjunction. Early in the training, it is better to employ both together, so that each may help to make the other understood. After the horse gets the idea, it is better to use only one at a time.

When the man is on foot, he commonly caresses the horse by passing his hand over the forehead below the forelock, always in the direction of the hair. But the horse should become accustomed to caressing on other parts of the body—neck, shoulders, loins, abdomen, haunches, and legs. The fingers should be extended and the full hand used, not merely the finger-tips. The horse is thankful for a generous caress with heart in it.

On the other hand, the horse should not be slapped too strongly. A nervous animal, especially, is likely to interpret this as a reproof.

Caressing by the voice is entirely a matter of softness of tone. The animal has no idea whatever of the meaning of the words.

With the horse in motion, whether walking, trotting, or galloping, whenever the rider feels it becoming anxious at the sight of some object or at some noise, or hesitating before an obstacle to be cleared, he commonly employs the voice to quiet or encourage the animal, since the hands are busy with the reins. But standing still, or whenever, in motion, the rider can manage the reins with one hand, the free hand should caress the particular part of the body which has obeyed the rider's signals or been the chief factor in the movement. If the neck has played the leading part, caress the neck. If the croup, caress the haunches or loins. By this means the horse is trained to associate the aids and signals of the rider with the part of the body which is to carry out the command.

In general, a reward given during the act of obedience is more effective than one administered later. It is, therefore, often wise to repeat a movement, already executed correctly, for the sake of giving the caress during the actual performance. But after a difficult movement, well performed, it is often best to dismount, take off the bridle, give a carrot, an apple, or a piece of sugar, and dismiss the pupil to the stable.

Punishments, in the horse's education, are no less important than rewards. These ought always to be administered fairly and justly, with decision, but without impatience, calmly and with self-restraint, and with a sentiment of regretful loyalty on the part of the man.

The means of correction are four: the spurs (to be discussed later), the whip, the voice, and the hand. The whip is especially effective. It is used with sharp but not severe stroke, upon any part of the body, but never on the head. After the training has made some progress, the effect of the whip is augmented if, along with the stroke, the trainer speaks in a sharp, guttural tone. A man working his horse on foot can make a strong impression by looking the animal straight in the eyes, with a severe countenance, while he speaks harshly with the voice. After this, the whip may be suppressed, and the rebuke given by a severe slap of the hand, accompanied by the threatening tone. The same method may then be used mounted.

When the horse has learned to expect punishment when it misbehaves and rewards when it does well, and to trust its rider always, it is well on the road of a progressive and thorough education.