Patch, learning how to be confident around unpredictable obstacles
This phase of training is often overlooked in the development of a young horse. So many of the horses that come to me for training have never been taught how to think for themselves, problem-solve and self regulate their emotions and instincts. Most of them were either taught early on to rely completely on the trainer (which isn't practical for a horse that then goes back to his owner or is sold to someone else later) or they were just products of their environment and never learned how to settle or be confident in new situations.
Horses that have spent too much time in the arena suffer from their world being so "small" that the slightest change could set them off into a flight or fight spiral leaving their owners afraid to try anything new. And horses that have spent all of their time outside and have never been in a barn or seen any obstacles can surprisingly have a similar reaction to the environmental change.
The bottom line is most horses out there for sale are under exposed in certain environments. It is crucial, therefore, as the owner, that you get a solid understanding of where your horse is and is not comfortable and what confidence holes your horse might have. When your horse gives you trouble and becomes afraid or defensive, this isn't personal, it is feedback that he needs more exposure in a certain area. When you look at your horse's training as an unending educational process, things will be less frustrating and your horse will be much more willing to trust your leadership.
When your horse gives you trouble and becomes afraid or defensive, this isn't personal, it is feedback that he needs more exposure in a certain area.