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August 21, 2023
Because love and respect are two different things that don't work on the same level.
Your horse should love and respect you. But you loving them doesn't make them respond to your suggestions. And you demanding respect, doesn't make them love you. Both these things need your attention... separately.
"I give my horse everything, why did he buck me off?"
This question is a real question, presented by a friend of mine who just got into horses. I held her heart in my hand for a minute and then said... "you're an idiot!"
JUST KIDDING! I would NEVER say that or think that.
What I truly said was..., "its pretty common to get those things tied up. After all, if you love your horse it goes to reason they'd appreciate you, value you, and not do anything that could hurt you." In an idealistic world, that would be fantastic and true. In reality, not so much.
Love given to a horse isn't always what people think. And respect from the horse isn't either.
Some people think you love horses by respecting them. By not asking them to do what they don't want. Then... cross your finger, they'll appreciate you and then one day, do what you want. I know it sounds strange but it's a path of logic that can trap us sometimes.
Another trap is thinking, if they respect us and are obedient to us, they will love us. Some folks take this all the way to believing their horse actually likes them because he or she doesn't hesitate to do what's asked. Most often, when I give that same horse the choice without consequence to respond or not, the truth comes out. The horse often only responds because if they don't it's bad for them.
It's sad but true, many people live in the fantasy that obedience is love. I've been there myself in my early career. I'm not judging those who do it now. Only trying to bring awareness to some valuable insights I've gained over the years.
Like most things, a balance must be struck. The coin from both sides must be viewed and you have to see the back side of the coin while looking at the front. That's perspective. I once heard of a study where children under four years of age were shown a sheet of paper, red on the front side and blue on the back. When shown the red side, and asked what color was on the back side, the answer was always "red." The child could not display the concept of perception from another angle. Of course we grow out of that.
We know that respect and love can exist on the same coin. And we know that great horse trainers see the immediate needs of a horse and address the need to build respect or to add love. We also know that great horse trainers don't assume that one always leads to the other but they are in fact part of a great balance.
In fact, too much of one and you lose the other. I see people add too much bonding time and not enough training and end up with horses that love them but don't ever respond when asked for something and can sometimes even be dangerous. Then I see people demand respect and spend hours training only to find their horses resent them and the work they're asked to do.
Naturally, it's a nice balance that has to be earned. Love can be earned by giving the horse what he needs and wants. Dive into horse psychology 101 and earn the depths of the inner horse. Respect can be earned through repetition and rewards and occasional firmness. Not confrontation, but simple clarity.
Love should be given, not to be confused with taking. I know it sounds strange but picture this. Picture a woman folded over her horse's neck, hugging softly. She's had a tough day and leaning in close just feels right. Is she giving love or taking? It's possible it's both, but you'd have to read the horse. Sometimes I see the horse brace for this kind of exchange. They don't want it even though you might need it. Sometimes my daughter comes to me for a hug. I can tell if she's coming because she needs a hug or because I need a hug. I always allow both and I'm grateful for the opportunity to give and take.
Horses can tell if you're giving or taking too. They can certainly learn to allow both but only one will actually feel like love to them. If you take too much without giving, they ironically begin to lose respect with you. You have to read them to know. Learn to read your horse in this course...
Respect should be "earned", not to be confused "demanded". I can make a horse do almost anything because I have lots of ropes and sticks and techniques and saddles and bridles, etc. But, outside of safety situations, if I demand something without giving the horse time to process and feel rewarded, I will actually lose love.
So, they are connected, respect and love, but like two sides of the same coin. Asking for respect in a loving way is best and giving love in a respectful way (one that relates to their exact current needs) is best.
We've come full circle now. We've looked at both sides of the coin. Now, it's your turn to apply your knowledge and skill. Show your horse you love them. It's okay to take love sometimes too. Sometimes we need a break from life and our horses can offer that. Just keep it in check. And show your horse they need to be respectful. Guide them through repetition and rewards to become smarter braver calmer fitter healthier, more balanced individuals. You got this.
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