So I wrote the other day about a pet peeve of mine- owners who don’t make their horse mind. While often times owners to not realize this is actually what’s missing in their relationship with their horse. They think old Rusty is just a little ornery in his old age, or maybe the people who sold him to me weren’t 100% truthful, or perhaps he was abused in his past and he just can’t! Any and all of these reasons MAY be true, but the fact of the matter is that they are just acting like horses- taking liberties where they see opportunity to. Many horse related injuries happen when a horse is startled and forgets there’s a human around to watch out for. I insist that my horses pay attention to where I am and what I am asking at all times. That way, if there’s a scary noise or something blows up out of the grass, the last thing at the front of their mind was me.
Not only is this a safety issue, but it just makes interacting with horses so much more pleasant when they do what you ask without a lot of argument. It’s a slippery slope to arrive at the place I described in my last post- silly little habits and routines develop between horse and owner, and many of them are pretty harmless. Who cares if your horse stops to catch a few bites of grass on the way in? Or walks off from the block when you try to mount? Or moves every time you approach with a saddle? If you are planning on keeping your horse for their rest of their natural life and you don’t mind these issues… there’s nothing wrong with that; but, what if you ever have to sell that horse? It’s something we don’t want to think about but it’s necessary to do so. Is anyone else going to want to put up with all those little idiosyncrasies? What if the horse is sold to a child? My goal with any horse I handle is to make them as simple and straightforward to work with as possible.
Another perspective on this issue is that of the horse. The horse in a relationship like this with their human wears a very grumpy expression most of the time. This is because they are constantly being fussed at and corrected. In general, horses respond best to very clear black and white rules- this is how they communicate with one another and it allows very little room for confusion. If a horse is never shown what the rules are by their handler but instead is constantly corrected and moved around, poor pony is going to get not only a little confused but also frustrated! A horse will be much more at peace when they understand the rules and the consequences for disobeying the rules.
Over at “Mugwump Chronicles” Janet, the author, used the term benign dictatorship to describe her relationship with her horses, and I think that’s just about perfect. She also explains how she reacts to a few of the most common “naughty” behaviors from her horses. Pop over there for a little more reading and some great conversation in the comments J