Here’s a good question to ask. When I am with my horse am I making it easy for my horse to succeed or difficult? Sometimes I see people making things difficult for their horse, resulting in stress, reduced learning and animal health issues due to raised cortisol levels. This can all be fixed with a slight shift in the way we think. When a horse presents with an issue we basically have three choices;
1. We can accept the issue and proceed anyway.
2. We can try and make the horse do it.
3. We can change what we’re doing to make it easier for the horse.
Sometimes the first option is not available due to work or safety requirements, and the second option results in stress, so I vote for the third option.
Recently I observed a woman in a stall with a loose horse repeatedly hounding him to move his hindquarters away. He was a new horse and had yet to find his way in the new environment. The woman had entered the stall and the horse presented his hindquarters to her. She told me confidently that the horse must never present the hindquarters to a human and must respect her. She continued harassing the horse to yield the hind quarters and face her. The poor horse had his ears back, was showing signs of stress and had no idea why she was hounding him. She continued doing the same thing over and over with the same result. In her mind this was the way to do it and she wouldn’t stop until the horse did exactly what she wanted. In the process the horse presented his hindquarters to her about 10 times.
Someone asked me to demonstrate what I would do in this situation. I went in, walked straight up to him and stood in front, said hi and held his halter while stroking and scratching his head and having a nice time with him. The woman asked me when I was going to start training. I told her I’d already achieved my goal, his head was facing me with the hindquarters away. I’d walked in, gone straight up to him and interacted with his head. Not once did he present his hindquarters to me and I was showing him that humans are good to be with and to have the head toward me. Very quickly there was no need to hold the halter as he was happy to be with me and we started to form a relationship. When I walked off he followed, head towards me. I left the stall. waited a while, then walked back in and he came towards me, head first, to say hello. He did not present his hindquarters to me once.
This is a great example because it’s so basic and simple, but our two approaches were so different. The womans resulted in multiple presentations of the hindquarters with the resulting potential danger, plus stress for the horse. Mine resulted in higher safety levels because not once did I have his hindquarters facing me, and the beginnings of communication and relaxation.
It seems simple so why is it so hard? I feel one reason is because people are over thinking. There is so much information on horse training online and peoples heads are filled with rules and regulations, what's right and what's wrong. While thinking is important in learning, when actually with a horse it seriously gets in the way. When we’re with a horse we need to come from the heart and stomach, using intuition, not the head. If we come from the head we miss the communications from the horse. Horses don’t operate on that level so we can’t operate on that level when we’re with them. This is the single most important thing you can do to improve your relationship and training with your horse. Instead of thinking ‘how can I make my horse do it’ think ‘how can I help my horse do it’.
Suzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.
Happy Horses Bitless
Lismore, NSW, Australia
Ph: 0401 249 263
Facebook: Happy Horses Bitless Bridles