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If a horse fears you he will:
Once you have established yourself as the leader the horse will understand that you possess the strength in the relationship and therefore defer to your wishes. You will not often have to display or call forth your strength – possessing it will be enough. I cannot emphasize this enough! Except for extreme cases, you should rarely need to rely on strength to guide your horse towards accomplishing your desired results.
It is also important to keep in mind that strength is not defined solely by force, but rather by technique and confidence. Do not let your gender, build or age convince you that a horse will not respect your authority because the fact of the matter is if leadership were determined by physical force we would all lose! Luckily since a horse's first instinct is to flee or avoid danger or conflict, he isn't often tempted to test his (or our) limits.
Horses are very perceptive when it comes to detecting potential threats or moods. In fact as good as we would like to think we all are at detecting deception or emotions, we are rank amateurs compared to many animals. Therefore it is important that you approach an untrained horse with confidence because if you are not a fountain of assurance during the unfamiliar rigors of training the horse cannot draw strength from you. He will be much more prone to testing your limits, spooking or simply ignoring your requests to do as he wishes.
By the same token you must approach a horse with a genuine respect and sincerity because a herd leader is not just a bully that dominates the herd with his/her strength. A leader also cares for the herd and protects it from foreign threats. With time the herd looks to its leader to determine whether a foreign occurrence or object is an actual threat to flee from or something inconsequential that can be ignored. The leader's reaction will largely determine the herd's subsequent behavior.
Can you now see the importance of developing a genuine bond of respect with your horse? If you use fear as a weapon the horse will have no trust in you and therefore be far more prone to spook or flee something foreign. On the other hand if you are a trusted leader the horse will look to you for strength and you'll have a much easier time reassuring your horse to overcome his fear.
One mistake some horse owners make is becoming a little too accommodating towards poor behavior or rude behaviors once they have trained a horse or formed a bond of trust. Many horses (particularly colts and stallions) will subtly challenge their leaders over time to see if they can get away with more or even take over the leadership role. This is why although a horse trainer and/or owner should be as gentle as a lamb they should also possess the strength of a lion – there is a time to stand up and maintain your leadership role.
We will look at this aspect of horse ownership in more detail in Part Two of this article.