There’s been a recent barrage of messages lately through blogs, online forums, DVDs and other platforms that lambaste those who use tactics that ignore the horse’s needs. Of course, most of these directives are worded in a techie fashion that excludes the neediest novices from the conversation. It’s also interesting that some of the more vocal horse advocates are rude to the people who chime in with limited understanding and questions in an effort to learn. It kind of makes you wonder how they really handle a confused or green horse when no one is looking (and sometimes, even when they have an audience). When it comes to horses, though, anyone who professes a single right answer to a challenge may benefit from some basic observation and the associated horse sense it generates – provided they’re open to learning.
What’s a horse novice to do?
That’s the beauty of the uninitiated equine enthusiast – and the danger. They’re sponges for knowledge and easily influenced by messages that seem to offer easy answers, but may be designed with a profit motive in mind that doesn’t serve either the horse or handler. It’s sad that some who may have the knowledge and the willingness to share what they’ve learned over decades of kind approaches to horse interaction make their words so esoteric, the most eager learners flee feeling too ignorant to grasp the ideas being offered or fearful of being judged if they join the conversation. Those who really want to help the horse should consider how their buzz words and platforms designed to impress their peers alienate those they claim to want to help.
Let horses teach you
Horses are great at communicating – if you know how to listen. It’s hard for anyone who hasn’t had a good deal of experience with a variety of horses to be able to read what a horse is trying to tell you. Often, it’s equally hard for someone who’s learned to reach horses in a subliminal fashion to express to others how they do it. Sometimes, it seems those who hide behind words and concepts too abstract for the most basic learners to understand do so intentionally to hide their failings.
Draw from the experience of those willing to speak your language
So, how can the novice begin to learn how to structure a plan to consider the horse? Spend time watching your horse and seeing how he reacts to what you do. Mix it up and carefully observe what he responds to with eager enthusiasm. Try to find people you trust who speak to you in terms that are clear with an approach that is flexible and responsive to your horse’s learning and performance preferences. Seek out those who are able to express ideas in simple terms, and willing to demonstrate, graphically, how certain actions influence the horse’s behavior. Ask people who are getting good results and building great relationships with their horses how they did it – and see if you can observe them in action. Use your head on what seems right and fair and where tactics designed to create a compliant horse may not make a happy horse.
The truly successful are humble
Some of the most successful human leaders in the world are humble, accessible and able to speak to anyone of any status or education as a respected and appreciated peer in a language that is easy for them to process and implement. The same holds true for those working with horses in a stand-out fashion. Those who use communications to dominate, impress, posture, separate and/or put others in a place below their status are suspect – both when it comes to human and horse communications. Learning should be fun for all involved and those who can make it easy for both the horse and human to understand, implement and embrace are special. Sometimes they lurk in the most unexpected places. Finding someone with truly selfless motives where both you and your horse are concerned (and some of these people may charge for their knowledge – but it’s clear early on that it’s not about profit, but satisfaction in improving the experience for both you and your horse) is a joy. If you haven’t discovered such a resource yet, keep looking. They’re out there.