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October 30, 2018 4 Comments
Gone are the days that I do things on horses, just for my own pleasure. I can't bare to see the look on another horse's face that tells me, he's nothing more than a puppet on my strings. Or worse... a slave to my own pleasures.
Observation and experience has reinforced for me the truth which science has already shown us. Horse's have the brain of a four year old human child. They think, they dream, they remember, they get distracted. They feel all the emotions. When this truth becomes obvious to the horse owner, things change. For years I wondered if I should give up the horse industry all together, but in my heart, I could not! I believed I could help improve the industry. I believed I could help change the way people interact with their horses. I believed, with the skills I possess, I could help horses truly feel valued in our human world, and... keep the love and joy we naturally have as horse enthusiasts, intact! And today, I believe that stronger than ever. I love to interact with horses, and that includes riding. I want to keep that love alive, but something had to change.
In my heart, I had to have a way to add value to the horse's experience. I'm not just talking about trading food and shelter for riding whenever I want. I'm talking about adding true value to the horses experience, so that when I ask for any particular task, even challenging tasks like piaffe or flying lead changes, I can clearly answer the horse's natural question of, "Why are we doing this?"
Believe it or not, horses always ask that question, "WHY? Why should I do this?" It's easy enough for them to figure out what we want, but much harder to figure out why we want it.
If you ever wondered why a horse won't get in a horse trailer, even though he knows how. If you ever wondered why a horse won't pick up a right lead. If you ever wondered why a horse won't leave the arena, or enter it... It's because he/she is asking, "Why?" He asks "why" by resisting, by pulling, by bucking, by hesitating. The body language is obvious, even to a child. "WHY? Why should I do this?" And if you can't answer, as a leader, in a meaningful way, you are not the leader your horse deserves. But... you can be! If you embrace the B.E.S.T acronym. You can be everything your horse needs, and deserves, regarding his partnership with you.
Whenever a horse seems to be asking me why we're doing any particular task, I'm able to answer with one, or all, of the above answers. See examples below:
"I'm doing this to help you become more balanced, which leads to a healthier bio-chemistry and a happier horse. It also leads to higher level tasks, which make our lives more interesting, if done correctly."
"I'm doing this to increase your endurance, which makes you a stronger horse. A strong horse is a healthier, happier horse that's more capable of working in harmony and partnership. Sitting and standing around all day, is boring and doesn't serve anyone. Exercise can be interesting and serves many aspects of health and progress!"
"I'm doing this to increase your sensitivity. If you're too reactive, I can help. If you're non-responsive, I can help. By being more sensitive to my suggestions, to my hands, to my legs, our communication dramatically improves. Good communication equals a great partnership and a happy relationship."
"I'm doing this to develop your trust. I want you to trust in the human world. Even though some things are hard, they are not here to hurt you, but to help you. Trust in me as well. I have your best interests in mind. I'm here to engage in interesting activities with you. I'm here to help you survive and thrive. Trust in the activity or the stimulus, and realize that the things we do, end. We always feel better when we've accomplished something."
When your horse asks you, "Why are we doing this?" tell him, or her. Even if the horse doesn't respond to our verbal language, they most certainly respond to our intention. I hope you always have the best of intentions:)
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November 04, 2018
I love your articles and I love your respect for horses and understanding that they have needs to and the passion you show them. It’s amazing how sometimes they know what we are doing and move right into it and other times when they are saying Hey Why? Did my first trail ride today since June as it has been so hot. After saddling up my boy Shiloh, he didn’t want to move out of the crosstie area, asking why are we gonna work again…. I said no we are gonna have some fun and trail ride, so he followed me out, we did our little warm up on the ground, got on and when I headed him towards the trail I could tell he was yes yahoo, lets go play. I told him it would be fun and a great way to exercise and he was great and had fun. You have a gift to show us how to enjoy and embrace a relationship with our horse. I made sure since I had been gone a couple of weeks that I spent time grooming/bonding today and not just riding.
November 03, 2018
Great article Don. I love the idea of doing everything we do with the intention of helping our horse become a stronger happier partner!
November 01, 2018
Thank you so very much Don for that perspective on the responsibility and care for having a well balanced relationship with our horses. Truly well said and appreciated. I also found that I have so much better and sooner results with my horses when taking the time to have us get to know each other with respect.
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November 07, 2018
Another great article! I love your ability to take the horse ‘s perspective and to educate their people. The horse does not need to just blindly obey “because I said so!”