To me...a willing horse is safe, confident, obedient and fun to ride. It’s the horse that does everything on a loose rein or without a bridle. The one that anyone can ride. Whether you are a high-level competitor or a part time recreational rider, we all love a willing horse.
This type of horse is the most sought after in the industry today. What makes a willing horse? Is it trust, leadership, communication, their ability to learn from their mistakes or just something they are born with? I think it’s all of the above. I’ve learned it’s possible to train a horse to be willing even if they have a unwilling attitude.
If I could give you one tip for creating and maintaining a willing horse... it would be to allow them to make a mistake.
Every horse will say "no" sometime in their training process, some more than others. How you handle that "no" is key. When allowing a horse to make a mistake, it's important that you keep the command on with very little pressure. You wan't to have enough pressure to cause "annoyance" but not enough to "make" them do what you want. Wait for your horse to choose the correct option... then release.
It’s not common in our industry to allow horses to make mistakes, I have tried to adapt that Philosophy. One of my favorite sayings from Ray Hunt is “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult.” When you learn how to connect to their brain... your life with horses will be changed forever.