Correction, Redirection; Education

Correction- happens after a behavior
Redirection- happens during the behavior
Education- prevents the behavior from ever happening

I get asked all the time, what do I when my horse __?
Sometimes you don’t have a lot of control of certain behaviors, such as a farrier trying to get a trim done. They aren’t in a position to educate your horse and can only mitigate behaviors. Correction in this case would be things like slapping, yelling “no” or “Quit” (which last I checked, horses don’t speak English), yanking lead ropes, etc. Redirection is possible if everyone is attentive, watching the horse and communicating. Taking some time to set the environment up for success is helpful too, such as moving away distractions like nearby hay, or bringing in a buddy to keep the horse quiet.

Ideally, the owner would educate the horse before hand, to prevent any problems. This would involve teaching the horse to pick up their feet, come into the barn and stand for short periods at a time leading to longer periods, and to feel calm with or without a buddy.

In many scenarios, some combination of all 3 might come into play- education, redirection, and correction. I think it’s important to never say never- but in most cases, we can eliminate the majority of need for correction with education and attention to the situation at hand.

Many horse people are caught in a cycle of reactive correction- waiting for the horse to ”misbehave” (which I put in quotes here because horses behave in accordance to their education, handling and environment) and reacting – the problem with this is it is always too late. The behavior has happened- and now the horse is frustrated, the person is usually emotional, and the whole thing is a setup for failure. It doesn’t actually teach horses- it can create fear, can create sneakier behavior, or can cause a behavior to stop due to startling- but it doesn’t actually teach. For a horse to learn long term, we need to break down the pieces that go into the behaviors we want to encourage, and reward those.

It’s a tough pill for most to swallow, but important nevertheless- the behaviors of the horse are always our responsibility- and that if we are correcting, chances are we missed the signs leading up to it, and are late. It’s up to us to create the education and environment needed for a horse to succeed, to get into an education and observation frame of mind, and to get out of reaction mode.

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