Believe it or not, horses are still often treated poorly in our human world. In part, it's because people assume that horses love being ridden or worked with and don't take the time to learn and read their horses body language. This type of thinking leads to poor experiences for the horse and often dangerous experiences for the human because, if you expect things to be fun and easy, and then they aren't fun and easy, this leads to frustration, which leads to cruel or inappropriate communication. Some horses do genuinely love human activity, but most don't naturally. However, they can all learn to love it, if... you don't make the mistake of assuming they enjoy it and instead, constantly work to ensure they enjoy it.
Training seems hard. That's why so many people send their horses to trainers. The truth is, training isn't hard. It's very simple and anyone can do it safely. All you need is the right support. We have that support. It's called the Horse Mastery University. Sending your horse to a trainer can be a hit or miss experience and you don't want to mistake any old trainer for a natural trainer that has the horse's experience in mind. Too many trainers think they know it all and don't give a hoot about how the horse interacts with people, further exasperating the feeling of imprisonment for the horse.
I love clean, functional places to work with a horse and enjoy a ride. However, this drive for perfection can go too far. Lots of horses end up in perfect facilities, and never get to experience real life. On one hand, it's sad that the horse doesn't experience more life, locked in a stall or safe riding area. On the other hand, it's horrific to see how these horses don't handle normal life situations because they never experience them. If a plastic bag flew across the field they'd jump the fence in a panic. You can't trail ride a horse that doesn't understand rocks, fallen trees, streams, bicycles, sudden movements, cars, pedestrians, umbrellas, fallen down fences, etc. Be sure to leave a couple of normal things in your horses life on a regular basis, so they know how to act when they encounter them.
Extreme bullying is simply not acceptable in any environment. When I see a human bully a horse into a horse trailer or sit on a green horse and bully them into submission, I cringe. But the other thing that makes me cringe is when I see a human coddle and baby their horse through every negative emotion. I see people back away from their dream of riding with friends on a trail because their horse gets nervous and then that person becomes an avoid-acholic, constantly protecting the horses emotions, hoping to gain the horse's trust. It doesn't work that way. Trust comes from leadership. Leadership isn't bullying. It's guiding with repetition and rewards. It's consciously exposing the negative emotions and working through them. Babying doesn't work. Bullying doesn't work. Find the middle ground and find your true partnership with your horse.
Feel and timing are a learned thing. You can't be good at real estate or construction or law practice without having some experience in the field. Same with a horse. You have to dive in, make some mistakes and learn from them. One ironic mistake people continue to make however, is to NOT learn from their mistakes. For instance, when a horse pulls the rope out of your hand to eat grass, and you let them continue eating the grass. This type of inadvertent rewarding of bad behaviors happens all the time. Check your daily activities. Check to see if you are doing this kind of thing. See if your horse is learning to get away with something negative and you're allowing, even accidentally rewarding it.
Ouch! This one cuts deep. Lots of people don't balance their life very well. We've all seen it. We all have obsessions, addictions, neurotic behaviors, stress relieving strategies and so on, but how well we balance reality with fantasy and distractions is important. Diving into one thing just to avoid another, possibly more critical thing, is not healthy. I've seen people throw entire fortunes away in horse activities. One close friend literally lost $750,000 in pursuit of the perfect horse and bankrupted himself and lost his family in the process. Another close friend divorced her husband because he wouldn't support her unbalanced time and expenses with her horses. She told me personally how she regrets not looking for balance at the time. It's great to be passionate. It's irresponsible to be addicted beyond a healthy balance.
If you lined up ten qualified horse loving individuals along a wall, seven of them would defend their position as a "know-it-all" horseman or horsewoman. When in reality, not one of those seven has taken a horse course in years. Three of the ten would engage in quality conversation, not about what they know, but about what you might have to offer them. It's not easy being in that smaller percentage of people, willing to expose your weaknesses and learn from another person, even less qualified people. I am often learning from my students. I learn things about horses, things about myself, better ways to teach and so on. That's why I encourage comments, conversation and healthy debate. Don't be among the majority of horse people who stays close minded or acts threatened by other peoples experience and knowledge. Keep open, keep learning, keep growing. Find out how!
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