What is positive horsemanship?

 Positive horsemanship is the idea that a pat on the neck goes further than a kick to the belly.  Praise often, punish seldom.  With young/green/rescue horses its important to always keep in mind the progress they have made instead of focusing on the distance they have yet to go.  Enjoy every victory, no matter how small.

I've always believed in this type of work, and it came to the forefront during my work with a neglected and abused half Arabian colt named Aiden.  When I first got on Aiden, he was so petrified, he couldn't do anything but shake.  I would sit on him, unmoving, for half an hour and he would be foaming with sweat.  I never got mad at him.  I just let him take his time to understand that I had no intention of hurting him.  After a month, he walked and jogged quietly, but started to give an occasional little baby buck.  Not the type of buck where he wanted to hurt someone, just more of "I'm a frisky 4 year old" type of buck.  Well, I didn't punish him for it (I didn't reward, of course), but I just continued on with my ride.  He stopped his little bucking spell, jogged around quietly, and we finished our ride.  I was able to accomplish what I had set out to do and he ended on a good note and actually even enjoyed his little ride.

The same thing applies to riding students.  Once in a while, create a way for a rider to just enjoy themselves.  Safety is always the primary concern, of course, but some days you just have to pass on that "no-stirrups" lessons and opt for a game of tag on horseback instead.  Seem a little odd? The proof is in the pudding.  Come watch my students ride and you'll see what I mean.