When people get a new horse, they have visions of cantering down the beach into the sunset, hair blowing in the breeze with not a concern in the world. The reality of the dream horse is sometimes different. It can be extremely hard to let go of this vision and see the horse that is standing in front of you, which can result in difficult times for both the horse and human. People may find time with their new horse frustrating, as the horse is not fitting into their vision, and they stop enjoying being with them. If the horse does not live up to expectations the person may try and force the horse, sometimes with unpleasant results. No horse will ever be as perfect as the vision we have in our heads, regardless of how much we love them or how much training they receive. This may sound a bit negative, but it is important to be aware of so that we can appreciate and love the horse that is in our paddock, not the one in our heads. A few things people sometimes do when they get a new horse increase the possibility of problems. One is to immediately start feeding their new horse rich food to improve their condition. Increasing a horses feed usually increases their energy and affects their personality. A gentle, quiet horse can become another type all together when fed a rich diet. There will be enough adjustments already for a new horse without adding more. Feeding your new horse low sugar, high fibre feed is much safer. Another thing is allowing the horse to settle in before asking anything of them. In theory this seems a respectful thing, but it can start you off on the wrong foot with your horse. Years ago, I worked for a horse starter and re-trainer. When he had a horse come in for behavioural issues, he would always train or ride them in the first day or two. I asked why he did this, and he said that horses are disoriented when they are first moved. In the first day or two they are amenable to nearly anything. At this point you can establish a relationship for training and riding much easier than if you wait for them to settle in and start asserting themselves. When they do settle and start to express their personality more fully, you already have a healthy working relationship established. Most horses are noticeably quiet when they first come to a new home. After two weeks to a month they seem to ‘arrive’ properly, and then you see the true horse you now have. Their self-confidence increases, and they begin to express their desires more strongly. Within a few months they can be a totally different horse to the one you went and saw before buying. This can be a very tricky period for people. Re-adjusting your vision and really seeing the horse before you is so important at this stage. Relationships between horses and humans are not transferable. The horse will carry the relationship they had with their previous human for a while, then start to form a new, different one with you. This can result in some bonus behaviours as well as some not so desirable traits emerging. The horse will change and adapt to be a match to you. In this way horses are our mirrors. There's a lovely old saying 'The outside of the horse reflects the inside of the human'. It’s worth being aware of how huge it is for a horse to be sold, to go to a new home, a new human, with new training. Try and see the horse that is standing in front of you, not the one in your head. From there the two of you can move forward, with patience, and who knows, one day reach that dream.
Suzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.
Happy Horses Bitless
Ph: 0401 249 263
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