Stress in horses limits their learning ability
While some humans may thrive in stressful situations, the opposite can be said for our equine partners. A stressed out horse doesn't learn as well as a relaxed and happy horse. Of course, how much it impairs varies from horse to horse, but it's fairly unilateral that you want your horse eager, happy, and ready to learn. The more fearful your horse, the less likely it is to learn when it's worried about everything around them rather than listening to their trainer. Positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement is the way to go. You want to avoid stress in your horse any way you can!
Positive reinforcement is when you reward the behavior you want. You may give your horse something they enjoy such as pets, scritches or even a treat. Negative reinforcement is when you remove something unpleasant when you get the behavior you want. An example being, when you're at a traffic light, and the driver in front of you is busy texting, you may hit your horn and stop when they start to move. In horse terms, you may make them uncomfortable or unhappy until they do what you want them to do. Rewarding them and encouraging a horse works so much better and doesn't pile on the stress. The more stressed your horse is, the longer it will take them to learn.
Like humans, horses learn in different ways. There are no good or bad learners; it's all a matter of learning to speak your individual horse's language. Learning to be open to your horse's communication also will help lower that stress levels and assist them to learn what you want. Most horses tend to be pleasers; they just want to make their human happy; the trick is figuring out how to help them help you. It's always good to take a refresher course on equine language and try to best talk to your horse in a way they understand. Of course, your body language matters , and if you're stressed or worried or angry, you're going to pass that along. While horses can understand tone and inflection of speech, they first look to what your body is saying to them.
A horse which is sick or in pain is a stressed out horse, so if your horse came to you with health issues, you're going to have to sort all of those out before you settle them into a training regime. Helping settle their stomach, which may be ulcerated from their stress levels, is a great place to start. Products such as AbGard can help your horse heal and get back into healthy eating habits. Once their stomach is settled, it's easier to get the rest of them going. The less stress in your horse, the happier they will be and the more receptive to what you're trying to teach them!