One of the very most important things MY instructor told me when I wanted to be a professional was, “It’s all about how you set it up – if you are not clear enough in the beginning, you will know it later! The better you prepare yourself and your students, the better things will go.”
And, just as so many things do, I have found this statement to fit with my horsemanship as well (and many other areas of my life!).
So often, I can see horses that are high headed, confused, acting out (rearing, bucking, striking, etc.), afraid, or defensive… and guess what the common denominator is in all of these problems? The HUMAN!
Not to say that we don’t love our horses or that we wouldn’t do anything for them.
It’s just all in the set up.
Perhaps the person is not being as clear in his/her communication. Perhaps the horse is used to being in charge and is not sure if it agrees with the “trainer” that he/she deserves to lead. Perhaps the human is afraid, which in turn scares the horse, and the horse starts to push back in an attempt to either have a leader or become the leader.
Horses are really quite simple in their first, and most important, need. They want to feel SAFE. If you meet this need, by being a calm, confident, and thoughtful leader, the horses will immediately start to be calmer, braver, and more like partners.
The way that the human approaches the horse will immediately determine how the relationship will go. If you approach the horse with a calm demeanor and respond to anything that the horse does with no emotion, the horse will in turn relax and start to wonder what it can do to communicate in the same way. If the human comes to the horse with the attitude of making the horse a servant or dominating it, the horse will often respond in fear or dominance as it feels its survival is threatened.
In the end, each of us will want certain qualities in our horses. Some may want more obedience where others may want more exuberance (opposite of obedience, offering more effort than asked for, etc.). Some may want to develop a horse with more responsiveness and more go. Others may want the horse to slow down and be more thoughtful. Whatever you personally desire, may be perfect for you and your horses.
There are some common qualities that all horsemen should develop (Pat’s 10 Qualities of a Horseman): heart and desire, respect, impulsion, flexion, attitude, feel, timing, balance, savvy, and experience. The first four are for both the horse and the human. The rest --- well, those are up to us to develop! (To hear directly from Pat on these qualities, visit your Parelli Connect Learning Library for audios on the 10 Qualities or read the Qualities from Pat’s original book, “Natural Horsemanship”).
So what do you want from your horse? From your partner or your friend? What can you do to change your set-up so that you can have a calmer, happier, and more fulfilling relationship? I’d love to hear your comments!
Mattie Cowherd loves sharing her passion for horses, nature, and learning. Join her for some fun thoughts and adventures. Mattie loves writing, teaching, horse care, and --- well --- horses!