7 Things You Should Never Do to a Horse

Woman training horse

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Horse training is not a quick or easy process, no matter what various books, videos or websites may tell you. It is also not all shrouded in mystery either, and it is possible to learn along with your horse. Doing so with a competent trainer or coach is the wisest way to go. There are many different ways to care for, handle, and train a horse, but there are few basic things you should never to a horse, ever.

  • 01 of 07

    Tie Them up and Leave Them to “Think”

    Horse tied with a short lease

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    Leaving a horse to "think" about things shows a lack of understanding about how horses learn. Horses live in the moment. They do not understand that your displeasure with them is about something that happened an hour ago, or even 10 minutes ago. They can’t reason like that. By tying a horse close to a wall in the hot sun or freezing cold so it can’t move or see anything else, or with its head tied high or low isn’t likely to produce anything but an uncomfortable horse. 

  • 02 of 07

    Withhold Food or Water

    Horse eating hay

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    Sadly, there are trainers out there who think it acceptable to withhold food or water to "punish" a horse. By not feeding it, they hope it has less energy to resist them and become more compliant. This may seem like a shortcut to an obedient horse. But, it is counter to good horse keeping and a poor method of "training."

  • 03 of 07

    Jerk the Reins or Lead Rope

    Man holding horse reins

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    Punishing any unwanted behavior be jerking or flapping the reins or lead rope will be counterproductive. Any time you do something that makes your horse lift its head and avoid the contact of the bit or even the halter it is not learning, it is only reacting to avoid the pressure. 

  • 04 of 07


    Horse running away

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    A well-timed verbal reprimand might cut short an unwanted behavior in your horse. Or, it might not. But a screaming fit will certainly only confuse and perhaps frighten it. Raising your voice is one thing, but having a verbal temper tantrum, as well as making you look ridiculous to any human onlookers, isn’t going to help your relationship with your horse. 

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Use a Whip

    Girl using whip to train a horse

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    A whip is a useful tool to cue your horse and used properly it is an extension of your arm or leg. Whips come in many varieties, are called many different names, and they should all be used for the same purpose. But, a whip should never be used to punish a horse. Striking a horse simply makes it confused and fearful. This is counter to the development of a willing horse. 

  • 06 of 07

    Ignore Any of Its Basic Needs

    Girl kissing her horse

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    Horses do have some basic needs for food, water, shelter, and companionship. Ignore any of these and you will have an unhappy or unhealthy horse. Learn what the basic needs of horses are and be prepared to provide them for every horse you own. 

  • 07 of 07

    Punish Habitual Behaviors

    Horse biting wooden fence

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    Horses don’t decide to develop stereotypical behaviors. They only react to the pressures of the environment around them. You might get irritated that your horse is weaving or stall walking, or any other habit it has formed. No matter what you do to punish the horse it will not change or stop the habit. Your horse will not be able to make the connection between their habit and your reaction. Because many unwanted behaviors are caused by stress, punishment might contribute to the habit. Instead, learn how to deal with your horse’s stereotypes by learning what causes them and taking steps to minimize the triggers.