“You never close a sale. You only begin a long-term relationship where both parties win.” – Denis Waitley
This quote grabbed me – not only due to my logging more than twenty years as head of a marketing firm that encouraged clients to embrace an inverse pyramid approach to selling, but also because of the wonderful application this idea has in working with horses.
Horses know, trust is key
Waitley goes on to say:
“Can you think of a successful relationship without mutual trust? Break that trust and you break the relationship. Subvert it and it’s almost impossible to put together again.”
Well, maybe horses are more forgiving than humans, but they remember. Plus, anyone who thinks they’re “teaching their horse respect” with what they do to the equine vs. how they relate to him is living in a dream world. Sure, you can gain his fear, her obedience, his compliance and her cooperation, but you’ll never win a horse’s trust with an end-game in mind that doesn’t include the equine in the conversation.
Horse communications go both ways
In the same article (and I’m probably really pushing the Fair Use Doctrine here, so hopefully Mr. Waitley will forgive me if I encourage you to sign up for his wonderful, brief, weekly newsletter at deniswaitley.com – check out some of his products too – he’s an artful speaker and an amazing treasure trove of knowledge), he goes on to say:
“The central secret of good communication is bringing the other person over to your side by satisfying one of every person’s most fundamental emotional needs: Make him or her feel valued. With rare exceptions, people who feel valued—who are allowed to feel important in the sense that they are recognized—answer with openness, cooperation and reciprocated respect. If you want respect, be respectable. If you want to be loved, be loveable. If you want to be trusted, be trustworthy. If you want a lifelong relationship, listen openly to the other person’s needs.”
While it’s not fair to try to put the human ego into play when characterizing horse emotions, horses that are valued, understood and encouraged to be partners in a job they can embrace (and accomplish) tend to be a lot happier than those that are conditioned to be robots, schooled into submission or left to languish with no horse/human work activities. Appreciated and included horses will do amazing things to tackle the challenges you face together. Respect is a two-way street, whether you’re talking person-to-person or human-to-horse. Lose sight of this and your relationship with your equine partner is more likely to be built on fear or pain than trust. If a partnership with your horse is your aim (some would rather have minions), where both contribute to solutions as you face challenges together, you need to be able to hear and acknowledge what your horse is trying to tell you. You might not always agree with it – and it’s OK to say no – but if you’re looking for a lifelong bond that’s reciprocal, it’s important to let your horse know that you’re listening to his input. Trust and respect are built through what you do with the horse – not what you do to him.
Horse sense requires trusting your gut
Too often, people dismiss their intuition when it comes to building relationships with horses in deference to one who presents themselves as a guru that promises fool-proof results if you buy (or buy into) their system. If something doesn’t seem right to you, or for your horse, don’t do it just because a media darling says it’s so. Every horse has his own character and individual reactions to what you throw at him. No one can honestly assure a standard response to a given approach.
Seek out a variety of perspectives and solutions as you strive to learn how to more effectively reach your horse, but trust your gut. If your horse is screaming ‘stop that’ or has lost the spark in his eye as you force him through a series of lessons devoid of his input and focused on making him a compliant servant, consider rethinking your strategy. The relationship building process can be a wondrous discovery process where your horse teaches you as much (some would argue more) as you train him – provided you are willing to include him in the conversation. Come at him with assurance, patience and understanding to give him the confidence and kind direction he needs to please, and you’ll be amazed at how much more he’ll want to do for you.
“Your attitude is either the lock on or key to your door of success.” – Dennis Waitley