In the vast scheme of working with horses, I have found three key elements that are necessary to establish a solid foundation on which good horsemanship is built. Each key is balanced with the other and working together they all form the interaction we look for in horses. Take for example if we are wanting to build a fire, three things are necessary.. Fuel, oxygen, and heat. Without just one of these there is an imbalance and the desired reaction doesn’t occur. So also in training each of these three elements equally used will give you well rounded horsemanship.
The first key is being the leader and in control of any situation you and your horse may be in.. This is easier said than done because for most people a leader is the person who gives orders and that is all but in horsemanship the leader is the one who leads as well gives the responsibility to the follower of any amount of self control that is necessary to complete the given task. A good example of this when you ride with contact vs. riding on a loose rein. Do you find yourself micro-managing every movement your horse makes because you are not confident your horse can do anything by himself? There is a huge difference between being in control and allowing a certain distance between which the horse is capable of making his own decisions and micro-managing every last step the horse takes to the extent that the horse is forced to become unglued from all the pressure. A horseman that is a good leader can discern when to pick up the reins and when to let them go.
The second key is consistency. That is all it takes.. Be as consistent as possible in being a leader and your horse will become a consistent follower. Consistency is steady, solid, supportive leadership and the secret to it in horsemanship is in your cues. When you think of a well trained horse what comes to mind? Every move you make no matter how slight cues your horse to react in a certain way. It is part of their instinct so it is in your best interest to take advantage of this. Just remind yourself of what each cue you give your horse means and use them over and over becoming slightly more subtle each time and the consistency you want in your horse is guaranteed.
The third key and final element in good horsemanship is repetition. In any activity that you can think of that your horse does each day how often does the horse repeat it over and over again.. If instinct is repetitive then secondary or learned behavior, i.e.horse training should be just as repetitive. When a horse finds a way to escape through a fence he will always try to escape through the same exact spot in the fence each time no matter how well the fence is fixed. To obtain the desired response from any cue we give our horse, we must release the pressure as soon as the horse reacts in the way that we want. The more you repeat this in every exercise the faster your horse becomes in responding to your cues and immediately you have solid horsemanship.