The French Horse Magician 

“Youth and vigor can usually be conquered by old age and treachery “

To continue the concept of using psychology to train horses instead of using force, I want to share a method that is used by some really fine horse trainers on the continent. First, there is a need to explain some concepts. The French horse magician, Francois Baucher, who lived in the nineteenth century, speaks of the three resistances of the horse. They are the resistance of weight, the resistance of force, and the resistance of inertia. The easiest one to understand is inertia. When a young horse is first mounted or backed, he often doesn’t want to move, because he feels unbalanced by the weight of the rider. Then, when he finally starts to move, the way he keeps his tenuous balance is by going faster, sort of like a bicycle that is easier to keep upright when the wheels are spinning faster. This is the resistance of weight. He throws his weight forward to balance himself. Finally, when you try to slow him down with the reins he pushes against your hands by leaning on the bit. This is the resistance of force. Pulling the reins only make this all worse, producing a “hard mouth.” So when he surges forward like that, we stop him completely. Then we sit and wait. We do nothing active, just fix the reins so he can’t pull, and also even more important, so we can’t pull. Eventually he will soften his jaw and begin to chew and move the bit with his tongue. That is the jaw flexion. We let him go forward until he speeds again, at which time we stop and repeat the procedure. Now we are using psychology as the colt begins to think “I better not speed up or she’ll stop me, and I only want to move!”

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