ward the area he fears, reward him by releasing pressure instead of punishing him
by adding pressure. Simply offer the horse a moment of release as a reward.
“Riders often compound the problem by taking the pressure off to reassure the
horse when he is getting afraid,” says Tucker. “When the pressure comes off at the
moment he gives a physical reaction of flight, you are reinforcing that behavior.
In other words, you’re telling him the reaction of flight to protect himself, the
spookiness, is the right thing he should do.
“The second biggest mistake is when a horse wants to go away from something,
This may get him past the area, but hasn’t worked to overcome his anxiety—he
or stops and doesn’t want to go toward something, people will often put their
leg on, applying more pressure in a situation when there’s already more pressure
than the horse can handle.”
Tucker recommends avoiding bending your horse away from the space he fears.
may simply spook the next time he sees the spot. Think instead of working with
the horse in smaller increments.
“By learning how to control your horse’s feet separately, you don’t have to
push his whole body as one unit toward something,” says Tucker. “You can indi-
vidually move his feet to create small
steps toward where you want to go.
Then you release the pressure and
You know you’re headed in the
right direction when your horse
changes posture from flight mode to
calm mode. “When a horse is gaining
confidence, his posture will change
from leaning backward to leaning
forward,” says Tucker. “If the horse
is in a negative frame of mind and
thinking of running away, he will
often have his head up, shortening
his neck and leaning backward. When
he’s more confident, his body posture
will be looking and stretching forward
toward the direction you want to go.”
With the TRT approach, physi-
cal relaxation translates to mental
relaxation and vice versa—and with
that relaxation comes a confident,
NATALIE DeFEE MENDIK is an award-winning journalist specializing in equine
media. Her personal horse passions include
dressage and vaulting. Visit her online at
steps toward the
area he fears, reward
him by releasing
pressure instead of
punishing him by