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Excerpt from the “Ask Anna” section of the Reach Out to Horses Newsletter

What is the deal with “Trust-Based” horsemanship?

I often hear you talk about ROTH methodologies being “trust-based” but what does that really mean? Isn’t all natural horsemanship training basically the same thing and what do you do in your training that makes it “trust-based”?

Great question.  I of course can’t and won’t speak for other trainers or teachers, but I can tell you why we call the ROTH methodologies “trust-based” and why that is so important.

The most fundamental element to any relationship is communication.  And without communication, you cannot create an effective training program.  But it is not enough to be able to speak basic “horse” and simply get your horse to do what it is told…. at least not for me.  After all, the better the communication, the better the training.

For example, most trainers understand that horse’s are “into-pressure” animals.  That means that if a horse feels pressure they will move towards it to eliminate the pressure rather than move away.  So if you know that is what your horse will do and you just create a training system that takes advantage of that concept, you aren’t truly communicating or building trust between you and your horse.  You are simply teaching the horse that when you feel this, or when you see that, you do this!

To create trust, instead, bring in confidence building steps that allow your horse to understand what you are asking and to communicate effectively with your horse.  At ROTH we shape behavior with communication, not force.

We aren’t looking to create a robot, we are looking for a team player.

True communication is 2-way.  By giving your horse a chance to be heard, you allow him to have a voice in his own life and specifically how his training goes. When you do that he will tell you what works for him and what doesn’t, the pace he is comfortable working with, the concerns he may have, and very important, his learning style.

Truly effective horsemanship isn’t about forcing a horse to comply with a one-size fits all system.  It is about creating a program around each horse and giving him a voice in that training.

By being fluent in the language of the horse you are able to avoid a cookie-cutter training approach and create a genuine, willing participant in your horse.  From that you will build a true partnership based on honesty, integrity, communication and trust.

Remember, it’s not about compliance, it is about partnership.

How do you know if your training is “trust-based”?  

That’s easy.

If you are using the language or the nature of the horse against it so that it will do whatever it is you want it to do, then that is not trust-based.  There is no trust or honesty in that training.  Instead you are using your knowledge of the horse’s psychology or behavior to simply make him more or less uncomfortable as you shape his behavior and achieve the outcome you desire.

If, on the other hand, you are fluent in the language of the horse and you use that language in your training to communicate and listen to your horse, adapt the training to your horse’s needs, character, personality, likes and dislikes, and learning style, you can create a training method that works for your individual horse, and develop real trust. Then you have created an entirely unique program based on your horse and you… not just your needs and capability.

In short, think compatibility, not uniformity.  Think partnership, not compliance.  Think creativity and communication, not system.  Work with the nature of your horse to build trust, not against the nature of your horse to create a robot and you will be amazed at how quickly your horse will become a true partner.

Happy Trails,



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