An unwavering commitment to the horse
Regardless of our source of influence, there is one unwavering commitment that we bind ourselves by…
That whatever we do, we want to do it with feel and respect for the horse:
- The horse’s interests and needs come first
- The horse is not put at risk
- The horse ends up in a better state than when we started – physically, mentally, and emotionally
Relationship is the foundation for our partnership with horses and this is built through understanding the horse, meeting it at its level, and using considerate communication to establish mutual ‘feel’.
Learning a common language
Positive communication is the foundation for everything.
Any meaningful relationship is based on communication.
Everyone that is good with horses has learnt the language of the horse to some degree, (even though their chosen dialect may differ).
Language misuse – compliance vs partnership
Not everyone uses language positively.
Some choose not to learn properly and instead supplement with methods of force or loudness.
More eloquent speakers may choose to use their grasp of language to coerce, trick, or intimidate.
Choosing to shout at the horse by escalating pressure when it hasn’t understood your poor communication doesn’t work and creates resentment or worse:
- Bullying a horse into submission or compliance is no different to bullying a person
- Make something uncomfortable enough and the victim will look for a way to avoid
- Having to choose the lesser of two evils is compliance rather than partnership
It is also worth considering that anyone bullied in this way would not consider removing the discomfort a reward.
Language is powerful, use it positively.
Gaining an understanding of the biomechanics of the horse helps us in many ways.
First we can learn to coach them to improved fitness and balance using appropriate exercises.
Secondly we can work on developing our perception and timing to ask for movements that the horse is actually capable of, (by considering footfall, shape, weight distribution, etc).
Psychology, thought patterns, and perception
Much is talked about prey and predator psychology and the way that many of a horse’s automatic reactions are contrary to our own in a given situation.
The follow on from this is that we need to change our instinctive patterns of response so as not to upset our horse.
Whilst this is all true, the horse’s psychology, thinking and perceptions are a much broader and deeper subject, and more information from research is being published all the time.
The more we learn and appreciate what it is that makes the horse what it is and do what it does, then the more informed we will be to manage ourselves and the environment around our horses.
This is a never-ending path of discovery that should drive how we choose to positively engage with our horses.
Opportunity for the committed
A willingness to learn about the horse, their language, and ourselves opens the door to opportunity.
As in building any relationship it takes effort, grace, love, and forgiveness of mistakes to develop the trust and knowing that makes things work.
Communication is key and like any language, if only the rudiments are learnt then the options for dialogue are limited.
Limited language means only basic or simple conversations can occur, and they often have to happen at a frustratingly slow pace.
But, if the commitment is there to learn the language as fully as possible, with all its nuances and variations, then there is a richness of communication and understanding available to us that will benefit both horse and human.