Years back, I didn’t have a good understanding of how everything connected in a horse’s mind. I spent the beginning of a horse’s training getting them light and responsive to the feel of the rope on the ground. Then, When I introduced them to new things such as flags, tarps and ropes, they became bracey in their attempts to avoid the things they were afraid of. I got them over this fear, but had put in a big drag on the lead rope in doing it.
Connecting every piece for the horse has become much more important to me now. When it comes to introducing scary things to prepare a horse for life, I now do it much slower and more methodically. If the horse pulls back, jumps to the end of the rope or becomes braced, it means I probably went too fast and need to slow it down. I want to reward relaxation and softness even while the horse is dealing with something novel, and I don’t want to teach a horse to panic or leave me when they get scared, so it’s important that I don’t create a brace where there wasn’t one before.
Working slower this way actually takes less time in the long run because I spend less time cleaning up braces I made along the way. Sometimes things happen, and some horses are more reactive than others. But in general I try to keep things easy for horses to understand. A horse in a panic is not only unable to learn, but probably developing a brace you’ll have to address later.