Monday, January 29, 2018
This Horse Is Acting Like My First Husband!!
Ignorance of the horse's mind, one's personal emotional baggage, and the misconceptions that result from the two are major impediments to developing a meaningful, safe relationship with horses. The horse's primary social goal is to achieve a state security. Same is true of all prey animals who live in herds. The human's primary social goal is to achieve autonomy. Same is true of all mammalian predators.
When we interpret a horse's behavior as a result of the desire to be autonomous we are making the first huge step towards completely misunderstanding the horse. The cliché, "That horse is just testing you", is generally meant to mean that he is testing you to see if he can get away with bad behavior.
No, that is not what he is testing. He is testing you to see if you have the power to provide him with security. That is why he resists being lead. That is why he resists being caught. That is why he "just won't listen."
He is "herd bound" or "barn sour" because he feels secure with the herd and not with you. Trust is more than the horse feeling secure that you will not abuse him. Trust requires the horse to feel that if a crisis breaks out you will protect him.
If you attribute his "misbehavior" to being stubborn it is time for you to go back to the drawing board. In a herd or small band situation the lead horse, (male or female the distinction is irrelevant) controls the direction and speed of movement over the other horses in their grouping. Those other horses may, at first, "test" that leadership by disobeying. The lead horses will promptly respond with a rebuke, often a bite or a kick. When the horse who is not the leader decides that it is safer complying with the leader than acting autonomously, it begins to relax.
It has found security in the presence of that leader. Leadership in the herd or band is not only shown by control. There are strong bounds of affection that strengthen that feeling of security. A close relationship with a horse is best created when one interacts with the horse using 51% control and 49% affection. Indeed, no horse will ever feel completely secure with any human that refuses to control that horse, nor will the horse feel completely secure with any human that refuses to demonstrate effusive affection in a manner that a horse understands.
If you refuse to take control of your horse it is not because you "just love him too much and do not want to be mean to him." It is because of the personal emotional baggage that you are bringing to the relationship. You either feel that you are not capable of being a leader or your relationships with others have caused you to equate leadership with abuse.
The irony is that an unwillingness to assume leadership of the horse is abuse of that horse. Not only are you letting him down in the short run by failing to provide him with a feeling of security you are failing him in the long run by producing an insecure horse that is not safe around people.
There is a fortune to be made writing books and doing clinics teaching the exact opposite to gullible audiences who love hearing that they are actually succeeding by failing their horses. That they are proving their virtue by letting the horse decide everything for itself--that indulging your horse as if it were a human infant shows the "partnership" that you have created.
Your horse is not a human. Your horse is not a dog. Your horse is not your child and your horse is not your first husband. Your horse is a horse.
Give him the dignity treating him as a horse.
Posted by Steve Edwards