Blog 17 “Building a ‘Trust Bank Account…'”

“Weaving The Story of Horse and Human”

Blog 17  July 26 2018

“Building a ‘Trust Bank Account…'”




noun:  firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

bank ac·count

noun:  an arrangement made with a bank whereby one may deposit and withdraw money and in some cases be paid interest.




When we learn and teach with reward based training and autonomy, a ‘trust bank account’ is a fabulous consequence.  A ‘trust account’ works just like a bank account. When we use reward based positive training with our horses, we are making ‘deposits’ into our ‘trust account’ and building our ‘line of credit’ with that relationship.  When we build a large, positive, overflowing ‘trust account’ and have a large ‘line of credit’, we have created an environment that encourages and allows our horses to be eager and willing to engage with us as a student and a teacher.  This is the ‘interest’ that the ‘trust bank account’ pays.   (Learning and Life Lesson)


When we use aversives and punishment, we make ‘withdrawals’ from our ‘trust account’. If we continue to make ‘withdrawals without making enough ‘deposits’, we lose trust and confidence in our ‘arrangement’ and relationship.  (Language and Learning Lesson)


I would never have used the analogy of making  “deposits’ and ‘withdrawals’ from the ‘trust bank account’ Rhett and I were creating.  I was making , what I thought were, reasonable requests about small things that Rhett should be OK with (from a safety standpoint), but many times he clearly did not feel that way.   Sometimes Rhett would show his frustration, annoyance, anxiety or fear with a ‘learned or new behavior’ and another ‘withdrawal’ would have be made from our ‘trust account’ to keep us safe and begin to change ‘learned behaviors’.

I learned once I started making ‘withdrawals’ from our ‘trust account’, even small ones, I had to double and triple the amount of ‘deposits’ I was making from our reward based and positive reinforcement training.  To help fund the ‘trust account’, one of the first things Rhett showed me was he needed ‘power’ over his environment.  This built trust and confidence and gave Rhett the right to say no and have a voice and choice.  Autonomy.


An example of Rhett having ‘power’ over his environment. Click here for short video of Rhett and Koda with toybox in roundpen. 


Creating our ‘trust account’, Rhett and I entered into an ‘arrangement and contract’ with wording suggesting we find support in each other on this learning and teaching experience and journey.  How very cool was that !




We need to remember things go wrong in our training when building our ‘trust account’, it’s the nature of two beings learning to communicate.  It’s easy to label and blame the horse. They are being  ‘a jerk, hard headed, stubborn, pushing our buttons, annoying us, messing with us’…the list of ‘labels’ goes on and on.   ‘Labeling’ our horses (or people) can be damaging to our ‘trust account’.  The horse doesn’t know ‘who’ to believe.   There can be an anthropomorphic  ‘attitude’ attached to the person’s opinion of the meaning of that label and put on the horse.

The perfect example of a horse that becomes hard to catch or can’t be caught.  The horse is labeled ‘bad’ and the human becomes frustrated and angry at the horse.

The human doesn’t ever think about the fact that maybe there have been too many ‘withdrawals’, not enough ‘deposits’, and the horse has lost trust in the human.  It’s easier to blame the horse.  Admitting the horse wants nothing to do with you because the trust has been lost is pretty humbling!


When Rhett would ‘misbehave’, he was trying desperately to tell me something.  Building our ‘trust account’ would come through listening, understanding and then translating what each was saying. (Language Lesson)


Rhett and I were teaching each other about communication, confidence, inspiration and motivation.  This was just a small piece of the building of our ‘trust bank account’.  We were doing our best to be clear in what we were asking each other.  We believed we were able to carry out each others requests.  We were motivated to complete the task because that was one more way we were building trust.

We were creating, growing, increasing, strengthening, intensifying and accruing our ‘credits’ in our trust account.  We were creating a willing partnership between us.  We both became more and more enthusiastic about our learning journey.  (Learning Lesson)

“You know what to do” and “You are doing well so far—continue” Rhett said. 

I thought the implication was that Rhett trusted me with figuring out the what and the how, and he had faith that my decisions would be sound and safe ones.  Rhett was encouraging me to simply continue ‘on course’, and to never give up.  For Rhett to feel that I had confidence, trust and faith in him was powerful stuff !  (Life Lesson)


As a reminder, Rhett said, “The Relationship must be formed in Trust.  The Relationship must be formed in Love.  Relationships are a two-way street, but we owe it to ourselves to learn how to shift from anger, frustration and rage into valuing, hearing, respecting and finding love with each other.”   

I believe Rhett was saying this again because neither of us had fully shifted.  Fully committed.  Fully trusted.  I know I had not.



“Trust is the alternative to fear” said Rhett.

Trust is a feeling as much as a choice and when we can extend trust, it is comforting to both horse and human.  Once you build a relationship based on trust with your horse, the possibilities are endless. If a horse trusts its human, it will do anything for them.  With patience, I have built a wonderful relationship with Rhett based on Language, Learning and Life Lessons !   (Language, Learning and Life Lessons)



As we work on creating and strengthening our ‘trust account’, I remind myself of an analogy I share with all my students:  a horse is born with a ‘pendaflex hanging folder’ for their inborn, innate personality and characteristics.  (Language Lesson)




Every ‘experience’ they have,  good and bad, creates its own colored ‘file folder’ in that goes in the pendaflex.  Each of those ‘file folders’ contain ‘innate behaviors, learned behaviors and default behaviors’, good and bad.

The more positive experience ‘file folders’ we can create, the more ‘deposits and credits’ we are building in our ‘trust bank account’ and the more ‘learned behaviors’ we can address.

Rhett’s ‘behaviors’ have been developed, learned and reinforced through his lifetime with many more ‘withdrawals’ than ‘deposits’ (as has any horse).  When considering the development of those behaviors, I had to remember that his ‘normal’ and ‘problem’ behaviors were partially a result of his genetics and lack of environmental factors in his early years.

Rhett and I continued to explore many of the ‘problem behaviors’ that were presumably,  ‘man-made’.  The biggest behavioral issue initially surfaced as defensiveness to touch, of any pressure.  Touch is essential for life.  Touch is a place and space where ALL species have a fundamental necessity to communicate and  bond.  How sad that ‘touch’ was something Rhett had learned to avoid and escape, when possible.

Grooming didn’t hold a particular fondness for him, he’d tolerate it but when offered in autonomy, he would usually walk away.  I would walk to him, ask permission to come into his space, and begin the grooming process again.  It took months for him to learn that grooming could be a pleasurable thing.   This was another small behavior piece explored in creating and building our ‘trust account’.


Click here for short video of Rhett and his first enjoyable scratching.


As we examined daily the ‘learned behaviors’ that held challenges for safety and the effect they had on our relationship in the moment, Rhett became more receptive of allowing me ‘in’ and participating in exploring the behaviors while still learning new things.


Click here for short video of Rhett’s tactile exploration and  “Noodle Bravery” at liberty.  Another example of Rhett having ‘power’ over his environment!


Rhett said, “I want us to be confident enough in ourselves and trust each other enough that we don’t get too worried when we make a mistake.  I want us to partner together but not depend on either or both of us always being perfect.  I am more concerned with our relationship than any training goal.”



Click here for 4 minute video of Rhett entering and exiting roundpen with noodles.   Very cool stuff here as he is learning to think !!


~Do you and your horse have trust in each other?

~What changes can you make to allow more trust to develop in all your relationships?

~Do you see your personal lesson(s) in this chapter of the story?



The further I go on this journey of horsemanship with Rhett, the further I go into my own journey of life-man-ship.


Next:   “Empowering Our Intentions…”

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