Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training/Horse Training vs Abuse


I am going to be writing a paper about the difference between training and corrective punishment versus an act of abuse. I am looking for where the line is drawn between an act of training and an act of abuse. I have worked at a training barn for 10 years and I can say with confidence that I have seen where the line is drawn. I know that rider aids are sometimes necessary, but where do you draw the line between an aid and a tool for abuse? I would love your opinion on this topic and hope to use whatever information you can give me. Thank you so much for your time!

Hi Breanne,
Abuse is destructive whereas training is constructive. All trainers use tools. Wheather it be your legs, spurs, bits, reins, crop, training stick, etc. To use the tool properly, you have to think of it as an extension of your arm and not as a "whipping stick" to "teach your horse a lesson they won't forget". The tool also must be used "as gently as possible but as firm as nessasary". In my opinion, if you do otherwise, you have moved from abuse. If you resort to excessive and unruly use of the tool, you can and will harm the horse in mind and body making it counterproductive. A prime example is the use of your hands and the bit. I firmly believe that your hands controlling the bit can be the most destructive and harmful tool you can misuse. You can "kill" your horse with extreme use of your hands and the bit. I could rake a horse with my spurs until he bleeds, (Which I would never do). About the most physical damage I could cause is a vet call and some sutures. The mental damage would be greater. However, I could yank on a bit with my hands and literally cut the horse's tongue off making it impossible for the horse to eat. If the horse can't dies. So, think before you pick up that stick or pull on those reins. Are you being as "gentle as possible" to get the slightest try from your horse? Or do you go for the gusto and use it as firm as you can? What are your intentions? Are you trying to punish your horse for misbehavior? Or are you coaching him along with your tool? The difference to me between abuse and training with a tool is:
(1) Intentions....Punish or coach.
(2) Are you doing physical or mental harm to your horse?
(3) Are you being productive or counterproductive?
This topic could go on and on. But, I'm sure you see my point. I'm glad to see you are doing a paper on the subject. Keep up the work. You just might save a horse from abuse one day and educate a rider.  

Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training

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Bobby Passons


I can answer questions concerning horse training, foundation work, colt starting, western riding, rider confidence and problematic horses.


20 years in horse training. Starting colts, problematic horses, rider confidence and Western riding. I have specialized in training good/safe trail horses. Shown in western pleasure, halter and trail classes. I worked in West Texas gathering wild cattle.


degree in prehospital medicine.

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