You cannot praise your horse enough.
The more you reward him–appropriately– the more he’ll learn to seek your praise. It is always a win-win.
One of the biggest mistakes I see riders make is being stingy with their praise. Maybe they are unobservant to the moment that they should offer praise or just plain ol’ afraid to praise their horse– but the result is the same: horses that receive little praise progress slower.
As a rider, it is YOUR job to provide opportunities for the horse to earn your praise– and to follow through with it.
Uncertain about when to reward him?
Praise him when he tries for you.
Praise him when he takes a takes a risk and successfully does something new for you.
Praise him when he finally connects all of the dots on his own and learns.
Praise him when he shows improvement.
Reward him in the moment– as soon as he gives you what you want. This cannot be stated enough. In order for the horse to pair his behavior with your desire, you HAVE TO praise him as SOON AS he gives you what you want.
Praise can take various forms:
- “Good boy”
- Wither scratch with a finger
- Quick walk break
- Pat on the neck/Make a big fuss
- Sugar cube/treat
If you reward him for doing the norm or the expected, you lower your standards– and with it– his performance level.
If you praise him for making a mistake, you’ve taught him that mistake is what you want & you will get more of the same mistake.
Once you have praised him for doing something, drop the subject and move on. Otherwise the horse will became confused and resentful– and your praise will be cheapened as a motivational tool.
Reward often because you teach him new things often. Praise him because you teach him to improve often. Reward him because he takes a risk for you.
Praise often because you want a willing partner who tries his heart out for you.
Do you frequently give the horse the opportunity to seek reward?