When we think how powerful words can be, maybe we should be inviting words into our horse vocabulary that encourage a holistic approach to partnership not a dictatorship to partnership.
I was looking through a Horsemanship Magazine the other day, and saw the words ‘Confidence, Respect and Discipline’ in the title. Immediately my mind churned. Horses for sure need Confidence and we need to think about Respect and Discipline, however, do we need to emphasize and title the words ‘Respect and Discipline’? What kind of message is it sending out to the horse world, and what kind of emphasis does it bring into the training arena?
Confidence in the Dictionary reads, "a feeling of self-assurance arising from ones' appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities".
Respect in the Dictionary reads, “admire ( someone or something) deeply; as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements".
Discipline in the Dictionary reads, "train ( someone) to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience".
These days you can open up most magazines attend a Clinic and the word confidence will be talked about. It doesn’t take much understanding to realize that our horses along with us, need to be confident if we want to be truly successful..
Respect is good to have along with confidence so we may balance our horse mentally and emotionally. A horse with too much confidence may become pushy, or dominant depending on what personality quadrant he is in, so then we bring in the word respect, to remind our horse although we love that he is confident, we’re not interested in pushy or dominant. How do we ask for respect?
The first thing that comes to mind for most people when they strive to have a horse respect them is to discipline them. I personally have a problem with the word discipline. I believe horse’s want to get along with humans for the most part. When we talk about discipline from a human point of view we talk about punishment to correct disobedience. Maybe we need to think out of the box and bring a new way of thinking to the arena. A more supporting approach that gives encouragement to the horse, causing him to feel good about himself as well as successful.
Focus On The Positive
If we focus on the positive rather than the negative we develop a horse that believes he is good at the things he does, he learns pleasing you is a good thing, and he finds himself wanting to please you more. The more they try for us, and are eager to participate in their lessons, the faster they learn, the more balanced they become, and the happier we are.
I’m a big believer in praise, building on the slightest try, until my horse shows understanding, confidence, and wants to please me. I don’t feel any need to discipline him, rather I will redirect his energy towards a task that causes him to think and sort out a problem. It's the redirecting of his energy that takes his thoughts away from being naughty or disrespectful.
Considering Our Relationship
Certainly if my safety is compromised I’m going to do what ever it takes to anchor my safety, but safety aside, everything I do with my horse should be building on relationship, confidence needs, and understanding of the task at hand, and if he gets disrespectful, redirecting him offers the positive response rather than an argument or fight. Like a small child who gets into something he shouldn't be in, it's easier to redirect his energy than get into an argument.
Being on The Right Track
Just because our horse is doing what we ask doesn’t mean they know they are on the right track. I see this often. It seems as soon as the horse does what we've asked, we're thrilled and so often ask again for the same thing without having a party first. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to let our horse ( right away) know they are on the right track. They've done good !
Let The Earth Shake
And if they've done exceptional - "Let the earth shake". I can tell you, personally I get way more cooperation from my horses when I let them know they are on the right track. It opens up the airways for communication. They know they’re doing what I want, I know they know, and now we can move forward. The reassurance they are on the right track breeds confidence. When they feel understood and confident they try harder for me. I ask them to do a task, they respond. Clarity is everything,
Softness and Relaxation
Achievement and success feels wonderful. When a horse is feeling good about himself and what he is doing, softness and relaxation envelops him. On the ground I can see it in the way he looks at me. It's this pleased soft glint in his eye. When I’m riding, he becomes relaxed and steady in his gait.
There is nothing more pleasing then to know your horse is not guessing, but understanding what you are asking of him. Success with horse's is about our approach through our attitude, clarity, intentions, and confidence. The question is - " do you see softness and relaxation or the lack of it?"
When we think about how powerful words can be, maybe we should be inviting words into our horse vocabulary that encourage a holistic approach to partnership not a dictatorship to partnership.
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