It’s pretty easy for me to deduce where someone’s horse issues likely occur by talking to them on the phone, monitoring their social media broadcasts or by observing their style on a listserv (or several). Whether people recognize it or not, the way they choose to handle human communications is very telling about their attitude with horses.

Can you see through the eyes of your horse?
Can you see through the eyes of your horse?

Are you defensive without cause?

This week, I received a caustic e-mail in response to a gentle request to confirm a horse connection on an equine Linked In group I help moderate (Horse Lovers of the Business World). The charter of HLBW involves a strict policy of no advertisements on the main discussion board. This culture was set from the beginning by David Hasbury (the list founder) and the conversation, camaraderie and support that’s encouraged has drawn thousands of members. Consequently, participants really get their hackles up when even soft spam hits the list. So, five moderators now spend a lot of time ensuring members that are approved have an interest in horses and understand that commercial posts do not belong on the main discussion board. For those who want to advertise, we’ve created a subgroup (that has only attracted a very small percentage of the total group population – few come here to endure a sales pitches).

Anyway, the retort basically involved a defensive ‘if you don’t want to let me play in your sandbox there are lots of kids who want me in theirs’ grumble and a huff you could hear through cyberspace. She was approved and then immediately posted to a thread with an exclamation that she’s on Linked In to promote her business. Sadly, she didn’t get that a two-by-four approach on this list isn’t going to create any friends.

Would you want to be her horse?

Do you know how to truly listen?

Social media is a great way to test your listening savvy – a critical skill to develop of you want to truly connect with horses. If you’ve decided you’re going to ram personal objectives down the throats of others without regard to their preferred communications style or the culture and personality of a particular group, good luck with that one. The same holds true with horses. Horses are like forums, blogs, membership sites and social media platforms in a lot of ways – if you don’t show an interest by taking the necessary time to understand and accommodate the particular needs of a community (or an individual equine), they’re going to tune you out. Or, worse yet, come after you.

Are you a humble, yet confident leader?

Horses respond when they have a confident leader that is ready to guide but humble enough to listen and learn. Jim Collins talks about Level Five Leaders in his book, Good to Great. He describes the traits of CEOs in ways that could be easily applied to the most insightful horsemen that have emerged through the centuries. Granted, this pertains to businesses, but there’s a lot people could learn about horse training in the pages that dissect the attributes of an effective corporate leader. None of the CEOs called out let ego or personal agendas get in the way of company success. Nor did they go in with a game plan. If you want to develop a horse to be the best he can be, learn to adopt your style, approach and responses to his input and proclivities.

Horse communication breakdowns aren’t hard to figure out

How can you tell by listening to someone where their horse talk breakdowns are likely to occur? It all comes back to perspective and attitude. Those who are all about making people conform to their ideals usually have challenges getting their horse to enjoy training. The meek or vacillating lack the credibility to guide a horse with the confident persona an equine seeks in a leader. The result is a confused horse that doesn’t trust his handler. Those who know it all lack an ability to hear the horse and tend to have major standoffs or blow ups with horses who are assertive enough to object to a dictatorial approach that doesn’t consider the signals the equine is sending. Provoked enough, these horses will hurt their rider/handler, but sadly, the blame is usually put on the horse. People convinced that a good strategy or pat formula deserves compliance, run into trouble when a horse doesn’t understand or like the regimen. The horses they fail to engage generally get volatile or shut down. Horse huggers who set no direction or limits for the horse wind up with equines that abuse their humans and lose out on the opportunity for a fulfilling job.

Horses like to be heard

Where would you rank with the herd?
Where would you rank with the herd?

Just like people, horses like to be heard. It’s funny how the perceived anonymity of online communications (without the benefit of a face-to-face) can bring out the worst in some people. It’s not a huge leap to conclude that what these folks do privately with their horses is more closely aligned with how they behave in social media gatherings than what they put out there as equine ideals.

Horses, like people, are on the ready to help you learn if you’re open to receiving their input. Think about how you behave when someone questions you. Do you have the same knee-jerk response with your horse? Is that helping or hurting your relationship? Nobody’s perfect (I’m certainly not), but if you really want to reach that partnership nirvana with a horse, listening is the key to understanding. Horses want to be heard. Acknowledge their input (and there’s nothing wrong with a ‘no’ answer, provided you’re responding to the question posed), and you’ll discover a new level of connection with your horse that is beyond imagination. It’s so exciting to be part of a human/equine team with a horse that will do anything for you. You might be surprised how much your horse will give back when you provide a mere nod to his concerns. Try it.

Please share your stories of uncanny horse connections you’ve experienced in the comments below, voice lessons learned, or, if you’d prefer, feel free to call me crazy.