In order to become a good horseman, it is imperative that you understand the nature of the horse. Being wary and cautious is part of the horse’s nature as a prey animal. His fear is part of his instinct to survive. A healthy fear is what has kept his species alive for thousands of years. You will never be able to take this instinct out of the horse. It is too deeply rooted in him. This is a fundamental part of the horse that you need to understand to develop a good partnership.
Countless determined men have tried and failed to change the horse’s nature. I have met many frustrated men and confused horses due to this misinterpretation. Discipline and firmness are good things, but make sure your horse first understands what you are asking of him. If he doesn’t then he will see your discipline as aggression and use this to validate his fear. Correction is good, but encouragement is better. Developing feel and good communication takes time and practice, lucky for us, horses are very forgiving creatures. I have found that with patience many horses are able to forgive us for our poor horsemanship and misguided training techniques. Be sure to teach, train and discipline your horse, not punish him, in a way that creates respect and trust, not fear.
Instead of trying to change him, let him figure out that he doesn’t need to use his survival instinct. Let him learn to relax. Sometimes a horse needs to use their survival instincts to realize that they don’t need them. In other words, in order to show your horse not to fear something, you might need to let him spook at it first. Soon he will see that he was not harmed, and eventually he will figure out that the object or situation is not a threat. Be sure that you remain calm and relaxed when your horse is being spooky or exploring a new situation. As your horse begins to trust you more, he will view you as a leader and will turn to you in alarming situations; if you stay calm it is likely that he will as well.
Don’t forget that no matter how well trained your horse may be, his survival instinct is still there. Always be aware of this and remember to communicate with him as such. Never take his trust in you for granted; it is easy to lose and time consuming to rebuild. Strive to think like your horse and your partnership will grow immensely. Most of the time we barely scratch the surface of what our horses are capable of, but when you are able to take the fear out of your horse you will be amazed at what the two of you can achieve.