Every horse person puts human values onto horses in some way, shape or form. We think some horses are better than others and some are prettier than others. We become attached to our horses and then we think that they love us back. We think our horses love to work for us and enjoy competing and winning prizes.
Human values are put onto horses in other ways as well. Horses are often labelled – quiet, wild, mad, bad, to name just a few. Fancy new labels are constantly being invented. These labels are just another way to blame your horse instead of blaming yourself, when things go wrong.
The truth is that horses don’t know or care what you think is good or bad. Horses simply do whatever’s easiest for them. If you make it easy for your horse to stop, kick up, pull the reins and run home, then that’s what he’ll do. If you make it easy for your horse to listen to you, to walk, trot and canter perfect circles and to try his hardest for you, then that’s what he’ll do.
Left to their own devices, horses couldn’t care less if their circles are perfect or not, or if they walk, trot and canter at the right time. However, every horse can learn to try his hardest. Every horse can learn to co-operate with you and to move exactly when and how you ask. And I’m sure that every horse will find this more enjoyable than resisting and fighting with his rider.
Horses simply learn what behaviours make life easy and what behaviours make life unpleasant for them. You must remember that a horse resists and fights because his training has been inconsistent and he doesn’t understand what’s wanted. It’s not because he’s bad, mad, naughty or lacks respect. Horses know nothing of being good or bad and they certainly know nothing of respect. Goodness, badness, respect and all the other labels are human values and horses have absolutely no understanding of them.
Always remember, there are no “good” horses just as there are no “bad” horses. Correct, consistent handling and riding will produce “good” horses. Incorrect, inconsistent handling and riding will produce “bad” horses.
Horses never change from being “good” to being “bad”. The only thing that changes is the horse’s training and riding.
It’s always the rider that makes a horse behave “badly”. It’s never the horse’s fault.
Neil Davies began training horses full-time in 1977. Over the next 15 years, he started more than a thousand horses under saddle and trained thousands of so-called ‘problem’ horses. [read more]
He is the author of Fear-free Horse Training – every step of the way.
Visit Neil’s website at www.fearfreehorsetraining.com.