Sunday, July 19, 2009

Command or Control, a Ground Based Review

In a previous post, I mentioned how important it was to understand the difference between Command, and Control. As a quick recap, I have to restate that Control of a horse is an illusion. Control of the horse is the province of the horse alone. It is the rider's task to teach the horse to control himself. When this is achieved, the rider may assume command. But many have mentioned that they do not necessarily know if and when they have command or when they are attempting to exert control.

The following tests might help:

1. Lead your horse through a series of obstacles, there should always be slack in the lead rope, if you never lose the slack, you have command.

2. When you groom the horse, is it necessary to tie him? Especially in cross ties? If so, you do not have command of your horse. Cross ties may be used to train him to stand quietly, but the training is not complete until he no longer needs them.

3. Can you fully tack your horse without tying him? If so, you have command.

4. When you bridle your horse, does he lower his head for you?

5. When you ask your horse to stand and wait for you while you walk 20 paces away. Will he wait at least 30 seconds without being tied or held? If so, you have excellent command.

6. When in the pasture, can you call your horse to come to you, then send him away, and call him back? Can you do so in the presence of other horses? If so, command is well established.

7. Can you step up to a mounting block and have the horse swing his side to you and present himself for mounting? Or do you do the mounting block dance?

These are all tests that will test your command of a horse on the ground. Mounted tests are generally well established in many disciplines but there are still a few tests that you can do yourself to test your command. However I will leave those for another blog.

Many extremely well trained horses will fail these simple tests so if you do not get them all, do not be discouraged. I cannot pass them all myself with my own horses. And passing on one day does not mean I will pass on another day. And indeed, passing is not as important as having them as a goal and recognizing that there are many times when I may be deluding myself into thinking that I have command when I am actually trying to exert control.


Jay Koch said...


I like your dichotomy of Command vs. Control. The way I think of is:

There is an inverse relationship between leadership and power.

If you have to exert your power to get someone (or a horse) to do something, you are not an effective leader.


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