In order to create a social structure that the horse will accept and understand you will need to have an understanding of what the “Equine Social Structure” is, how it works and why it has to operate in the method that it does.
In one of the past posts I covered the basics of how a position is to be obtained, but what we need to do is go into greater detail as to how all of it ties together. I have found that it is not always the strongest horse that is the leader, just as in people there are leaders that are not always the strongest. The strongest one may be out in front protecting the herd from danger, for that is the position that they have earned, but it does not make them the leader, it makes them the strongest one.
The earning of the trust that is necessary from the beginning is initially accomplished through a state of mind. You need to be able to remove and block out all negative thoughts that might be within or entering your mind. These are thoughts of problems like; money, home, family, work, etc., we could go on for hours. The horse does not have these type of problems because they do not live in the much more complicated world that we do. They have no interest in these types of problems and do not want to hear of them in any way, shape or form. The best thing to do is leave them in the house or in the car when you arrive at the barn. The horse can be your best friend and your sounding board, they will never talk back, have no opinion (so you are always right) and will never tell you of any of the problems that they are having with the other horses. So, it is best to return the favor and keep your problems to yourself.
Once that you learn to block out all of the interference that can come between you and the horse you are ready to go onto the next step; learning about social structure of the horse.
The social structure of the horse is a method of self-preservation and caring for one another that has been the same since time began. The basic structure will explain that each member of the herd is equal, that no one horse is more important than the other and that any action of any single member of the herd affects the entire herd. This can be best explained when a mare is ready to foal and the other members gather around her to allow for the birth to happen and at the same time protect her when she is most venerable. This allows for the actions of the entire herd to protect the individual member and it continues on when the foal is born and has a problem that will endanger the outcome of the entire herd. The mother of that foal has to make the decision that is best for the protection of the entire herd. It is a two-way street, all protect one and one protect all, this is the basis of the social structure that you need to become part of. This is a structured environment that we were part of centuries ago it was through our development and advancement that we lost a lot of that ability, but it still exists within all of us, if we are willing to face it. Facing and accepting it will place us in a much better frame of mind to be able to communicate on the same level that the horse communicates on. The same preservation of group and sacrifice of one for the other is your first step in earning the trust and respect that will place you in the right position with your horse. Initially you must realize that you have to give 110% in effort and sometimes even more to get only 75% or less in return. The horse, to see if you are worthy of being allowed into their herd structure is giving you the first and preliminary test, fail this one and you get no more. This step can take time and in many cases I have seen many people give up due to that one point. Doing anything with a horse takes time; it is accomplished in “horse” time and not yours. They do not have a schedule to keep or people to see or even get the kids to school; all they have to do is live. This initial step has to be accomplished the same way, in the same sequence and without deviation each and every time that you do it.
It could be a simple action of grooming or saddling your horse but it has to be the same every time. Each step has to be noted and remembered and placed in that exact sequence. If you are cleaning the feet always start with the same one, then go the second, the third and finally the fourth foot always following the same pattern. Touching actions with the horse are one of the most important actions since it is their main sensory communication method. Any time that you can integrate touching actions with the horse you are allowing them go get to know you on a level that they fully understand and can relate to much faster. Touching allows the horse to start the communication process through analyzing your reaction to the process.
All of this is preparing you for the step that you have to take; which is proving to the horse that you are putting them ahead of yourself and that you value yourself no more than you value them. What they want is an equal playing field and to know that in pinch you can be counted on, getting to that point of acceptance can take a great amount of time due to the fact that the horse may have tried to trust another human, placed their respect in them only to be disappointed. The time that it takes to get past this first step will vary with each and every horse, some will be fast and some will be slow, it all depends on their life experiences and you.
What are your thoughts?....
Until next time, “Ride for the Brand”.