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For me personally one of the things that keep me “motivated” in working with horses is their honesty. Even if I don’t like “what they are telling me,” they are keeping things very real. If they are having a problem, behavioral issues, insecurity, fear or are feeling “quiet” it is real.
I was talking with an older farrier and a vet over the last several days and a common theme of owners not wanting to admit what has been going on with their horses came up in our discussions. Whether it is an obvious physical issue or an emotional one, if you are willing to listen, the horse will often tell you his story.
The question I pose to most clients, and yes most wait until it has “gone wrong” before they seek out someone like me to help, is “what is your underlining goal with having/riding horses?” The initial response is usually a self-centered based thought, i.e. I want to relax and trail ride, I want to compete, etc. And often it is not until owners find themselves with a horse that is not able to “tolerate” what humans are asking/presenting to him, that they realize, the relationship between human and horse cannot be a one way interaction and reach a rewarding and successful partnership.
So what is considered “successful”? Depends on who you ask. For some it is the ribbon won in the competition for others it can be as simple as “surviving the ride.” (You may laugh at the later, but I cannot tell you how many people are riding in constant fear due to the “survival” approach.)
Successful to me means a mentally, emotionally and physically happy/comfortable horse. What is “done” with the horse (trail riding, working cattle, competing) I believe should be an after affect, rather than the sole focus.
If you took a vehicle that had mechanical problems, or even something as simple as a flat tire, and used it to “perform” (drive, haul a trailer, etc.) you may be able to cover some ground or get to some destination. But without addressing the problems the vehicle has, you’d always carry some worry, stress and concern about whether you’d make it without breaking down, having an accident, etc.
And yet so often with our horses, we get easily distracted by our goals and wants, that our vision becomes clouded as to “what is really going on” with the horse. Sometimes we “see” but don’t want or know how to deal with what our horse is experiencing.
I believe it all comes down to time. I know in past blogs I’ve mentioned time and not rushing interaction with your horse, but I cannot stress enough the mental “urgency” we as humans tend to carry with us when we don’t even realize it. Why are we really “rushing” and not addressing what the horse is doing? Is whatever we had planned so important that we cannot take an extra few minutes to address the horse, or perhaps even “change” what we’d planned on doing with our horse that day? For most riders, there are lots of “old wives tales” that seemed to have misdirected and influenced their intentions.
Often I believe the biggest “gift” I can give to students and their horses is allowing them the opportunity to slow down. Literally explaining that they don’t “have” to do anything, letting them experiment with searching for how to help create a change in their horse’s mental and emotionally state. With the removed self-inflicted mental “urgency” so many people get so much more “done” with their horse.
The irony is often in the rushing chaos, little is accomplished, and as soon as a student’s mental chaos is slowed down, they immediately see changes in their horse, and are usually shocked at how quickly they can influence a change. But most folks don’t know how or even recognize to pursue helping their horse until the horse reaches that point of change for the better. Often they accidentally leave the horse in an uncomfortable state, only setting up the horse to be more defensive/worried/anticipative during their next encounter.
So whether anyone else around you is doing it or not, even if you’ve owned your horse for years, please recognize any excessive movement, chaos, busy-ness, distraction, anticipation, or other behaviors are not an accident. The horse is being honest in what he is showing, so please be proactive and see if you can mentally and physically slow down to start to address your horse, in the end what you’ll “accomplish” will be rewarding to BOTH you and your horse’s well-being!Sam