Acquiring a horse in your life is a lifestyle change that will affect your daily life. There is a commitment to the animal that is totally dependent upon the human animal for existence, we must feed it, house it, clean up after it and we are responsible for it health and welfare. In return we expect certain things from the horse in return but our problem is that we do not know how to relay these responsibilities to the horse. In order that the horse be able to return the favor for their well-being there has to be a meeting of the minds. I mean this in the literal form, due to the horse’s ability to use speech is very limited and their ability to understand the language is even less. This is where the understanding and adapting to their social structure is so important. A horse has to be able to trust the person that it has daily contact with, if not there is total mistrust and a defensive wall is built around the horse against that particular person. As I have said before the horse needs for you to make the first move to initiate the relationship. They are a shy and timid animal that in most cases tries to keep to themselves and their accepted herd members. It is also a known fact that horses do not take to change very readily and when change is placed in their life if will take a year or more for that horse to be comfortable with the change that was made. The horse is not only shy and timid; it is also a prey animal. With the mind of a prey animal they feel that each and everything that they see is out to get them, especially any predator animal that comes in close contact with them. Horses need to be reassured on a daily basis that they have made the right decision to start to trust you and continue to build a relationship. If at any time that a horse has been injured or suffered in any way during this the relationship building process through the fault of the horse handler, it will be a much greater task to expand and fortify the relationship once that pain is suffered. Now, if the horse injuries itself by doing the exact opposite of what the horse handler has asked them to do, then what is referred to as a “break through” is then accomplished. The horse will realize that it was due to their own fault that the injury or pain occurred and that the handler was asking them to do what was right. This is a major trust building step made since the horse will start to realize that you will not ask them to do anything that will injure them, you are looking out for their welfare. What has been accomplished is to show that you have placed the welfare of the horse ahead of any other thing that you are attempting to accomplish and the horse will understand that action
Remembering that you are the person of trust that the horse will turn to for guidance and understanding; specifically in times of need and fear, one that will project the confidence that will allow them to become calm from your actions and show them that there is nothing to fear, after all you are here. You, through the use of trust and confidence, are guiding the horse through each and every step of the way. This is your project and your commitment, guided by the trust in both yourself and in the horse. Remember that the trust in the horse will allow the horse to place their trust in you and then build a solid relationship through communication skills that you have allowed the horse to teach you. The point of communication is a topic that many people have touched upon, some have been able to explain it but more often it has been a topic of great misunderstanding. The best way that I have found to explain it to you is that if you had to move to a different country and had no choice in the matter, say you had to move to a country where you did not understand the language, but also did not have any ability to understand the customs of the country and/or civilization as well. Unless someone who was in that country and also grew up there took an interest in you and decided that it was their mission in life to help you understand what had happened to you and why you got here. That is what we expect of the horse when it enters into our life, we never consider becoming part of their social structure or learning how they communicate. We expect them to become part of our world, but they cannot, they do not have the ability to make that change on their own, we have to come into their world so that they can become part of our world. This is the basic change that has to happen within the mind of the rider and/or handler of the horse, this is continuing to become a horseman.
As I did mention previously about the projection of both confidence and trust we need to go back to a specific point to fully explain what is meant. To do this we must return to the fact that we are constantly confronting the horse’s lack of ability to reason, and through the use of trust and friendship, the horse looks to you for the answer to their problem. The projection of trust is nothing more than showing the horse that there is not a need to fear the unknown; you are there to help them overcome that fear. For it is through the solid feel of confidence that the horse will relinquish its feeling of fear and replace it with the trust and knowing that you are doing what is right for them. This will continue to happen until finally it does become habit within the horse. The trust that is built upon will then continue to grow until the ability of the rider or handler allows them to start thinking as the horse does. Remembering that the rider or handler has the ability to develop the thought pattern of the horse: through their ability to come down to the mental ability of the horse while at the same time realizing that the athletic ability of the horse is much greater than that of the rider or handler. There is an old saying that you will never out muscle a horse and you will never move faster than the horse but you can out maneuver the horse with the use of your brain.
Getting to this point in your development will allow the horse to be able to place much more trust in you and start to be much more relaxed and be reassured that their life is not in danger. When the horse gets to this point in the your relationship they can then release some of the fear and replace it with the beginnings of trust. Once that the trust has been allowed into the relationship it become even much more crucial for you to be aware of anything that could break down the trust and send the horse back to fear and mistrust. Here again we are referring to anything that could cause pain or injury since that is the one true method for not trusting a predator. It does not have to be pain or injury that allows the blood to flow, it could be the misuse of a whip, line, bit, saddle or any other item that you have introduced into their life.
Until next time, “Ride for the Brand”.