Common Sense- You Already Have the Foundation for the Quality Relationship with Your Horse

Every week I receive 30-40 Ask the Trainer requests... From unwanted trail behavior/lack of manners, to ground work issues, to equipment suggestions, to feeding options, etc. from around the world.  I have a feeling that most people who quickly find my site on Google, type in their answer with the idea that they are going to get a "step by step" or "cut and dry" answer.  Their focus on the physical action their horse is offering never once considers the horse's mental or emotional status. 

For me, with every question that is submitted, I can usually visualize the "lost" horses by how their owners are describing their "unwanted" behaviors- kicking, biting, heavy on the bit, spooky, aggressive on the ground, kicking out when asked for a flying lead change, charging jumps, panicking at shows, herd bound issues, neurotic behavior in their stall/pasture, weight issues, etc. It is hard to imagine so many "lost" people and horses.  Most people usually don't search for help until it is painfully obvious or they are no longer able to "ignore" or "handle" a behavior their horse is displaying.

I think from the way most people interpret articles in horse magazines/publications, equine related websites, and watch TV/DVD series on "training" horses- the public has become used to searching for a quick "how to" answer when having a problem with their horse.  They tend to leave their common sense at home when they head to the barn to work with their horse for the sake of trying to emulate a certain "look," exercise, pattern, etc. they saw someone else do with a horse.  I have to remind myself to "let go" as I imagine the scenarios described by these clouded owners and who have unintentionally "forced" ________________ (fill in the blank) upon their horses. 

The following is feedback from one such equestrian from the UK who wrote in about a mare she leases that has severe and dangerous behaviors.  Her response to my answer is a pretty accurate summary of LOT of the feedback I tend to receive after offering advice regarding these complicated scenarios.

"Dear Ms Harvey,

I'd just like to say a massive thank you for your detailed and insightful reply - it made me cry. I feel like I've been so deluded by trying to do things 'right' that I've forgotten about Poppy! I will groom and tack her up, often in a rush, before realising that I haven't even properly looked at her. how inconsiderate is that? No wonder she's learned to tune out to people! She's just learned that whatever she does, no one listens, and she just has to put up with whatever is thrown at her. Everything you have said is right and I think that, in a way, I've known it all along. I have been ignoring my instincts for so long that I've forgotten how - and when - to listen to them and behave accordingly. I love this horse so much and it makes me really unhappy to fully know my part in her unhappiness. I'm worried about having trouble thinking of how practically and physically to apply the attitude, perspective and way of thinking that you are encouraging, despite your very informative reply. Could I possible ask for more of your time, if you could recommend any specific scenarios or exercises I could do? And as they aren't the problem itself and only the symptoms, should I leave her hooves alone for now?
Thank you so much for your time,

My biggest problem with owners watching TV "instructional" training shows or buying the latest DVD training method, is that too many horse owners are unaware that they have "skipped" some crucial parts in both how they operate and what their expectations of their horses are.  If instead of trying to "keep up" with the latest sales pitch, if owners trusted their gut instinct and used their common sense as they work with their horse, many problems would not reach the point of severity that they do, that then cause people to write to me.

If any of you have written in or read the Ask the Trainer site, you'll know I don't really give you "step 1, 2, & 3" in my answer format.  Rather it is designed to help influence a change in horse owner's thinking within themselves so that the way in which they approach their relationship with their horse prioritizes focusing on communicating and influencing the horse's brain in order to get the physical desired result. 

Because each person is at a different "spot" in their abilities, awareness, experiences, etc. and most people aren't always clear on "really" where they are at in their horsemanship journey, AND the room for misinterpretation is HUGE when advice is given without feedback to know if an owner is really understanding what you offering, my goal is to stimulate a change for the long term approach of the owner's thinking, rather than a "cure all" for the current "problem."

I'm not at all saying everyone is born a "horse trainer," but if people were able to search for "quality" with horse, rather than "quantity" or how much they can get out of their horse, a lot of the unwanted behaviors would not exist.  You might think of taking the time for quality sessions by using your gut instinct and listening to that "little voice in your head" to guide you with your horse as a preventative measure against unnecessary negative and possibly dangerous future experiences.

Good Luck,

If you're a horse enthusiast here's an opportunity to help you: Understand how your horse's thoughts influence his...

Posted by Alternative Horsemanship Remote Horse Coach on Monday, October 26, 2020