Ever had that moment when you thought you had something pinned down, and then it flies up and hits you in the face? (Physically, that would really hurt, but I’m kinda talking mentally …) Well that happens to me a lot, partly because I’m a learn-aholic and want to have things exactly right when I try them. Many times I’ve stood back and analyzed why something was happening – then realized that it was happening for the exact opposite reason that I’d thought of in the first place! So I’ve thought of 4 characteristics in horses that us ‘horse people’ think we have nailed down, and will propose the alternative mindset. I’m not doing this to make new rules, I’m doing it because I like throwing monkey wrenches into people’s thinking ….and I had some new pictures to show off 😛
Myth #1: Stubborn horses are harder to train.
The secret: Stubborn horses learn faster!
I realized this when I worked with an old Welsh pony. At first glance, the pony was frustratingly stubborn. He would only turn right, never left, and when I insisted, he would attempt to unload me. His mind was slow and hard to change. How stubborn!!!! But then I realized … this pony had been subject to years of gymkhana and traditional horse handling. In his younger years, humans had actuall
y taught him all of his vices! He had learnt very quickly how to avoid discomfort. Even the urge to unload me was a learnt behaviour, and not some personal attack on my skills. So bottom line: ponies and donkeys and all
those breeds you thought were harder to train,
are actually way easier to train due to their incredible ability to internalize patterns deeply and quickly. Once might be all that it takes with these horses; and believe me, I know, because Fjords are the epidemy of this stereotype.
Myth #2: Dominant horses don’t like taking leadership.
The secret: Dominant horses are the ultimate followers!
Yes, the dominant horse may take some convincing to accept another’s leadership, however these horses have got the ins on what leadership really is! They know what a submissive follower is, and they know the exact cues to give to attain that kind of devotion. So when we learn those cues and apply them, the dominant horse actually accepts our leadership more gratefully and fully than another horse would. My mom’s horse, Drifter, is exceptionally that way. He takes lots to convince, but once he is convinced, he goes beyond refinement
Myth #3: Pushy horses are just trying to make you upset.
The secret: Pushy horses are trying to get you to calm down.
There’s this piece
of information going around that pushy horses are just trying to push
your buttons so that you’ll get frustrated and weak. This is not the case at all. Horses have a herd system that is very hierarchical. Horses will test one another to see who is most fit for leadership. A pushy horse is merely an instinctual horse who suspects you might not be fit to lead. If you become frantic and rough, or afraid and weak, it is their sign that you’re not a safe leader. A pushy horse is just trying to make sure his herd gets the best leader possible. Show him you are!
Myth #4: When horses get scared, they are just trying to save themselves.
The secret: When horses get scared, they will try to save both of you!
Again, horses are very herd oriented animals. If your horse suddenly takes off, or runs you over, or tries to bypass you, he’s not saying “You’re useless! You don’t matter!” He’s actually saying “Come on! Let’s get out of here! Follow me!” He is terrified; that is true; but he’s also a horse and horses look out for
one another. That’s what herds are for. So when that plastic bag comes bounc
ing along and you get tense and imagine him flying over the moon, your horse is actually feeling the weight of leadership falling onto him. Therefore, he does what he thinks necessary. This leadership change often happens way faster than we humans can perceive. All it takes is a moment of distraction on our part to set it off.
An example of this was in early December when Storm and I were first getting to know each other. I decided to take him for a walk farther away from the other horses than usual. It was just a roundabout loop from one gate to another and he was doing quite well until we got to familiar ground, except we were on the other side of the fence and his buddies were just out of sight. The gate being hard to open, I turned my focus off of Storm for a second to open it and ….ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE! Embarrassing as it is for me to say, Storm charged to the end of the rope, yanking violently and there was nothing I could do but hold on. If I let go, who knows how, or where, he would have ended up! Long story short, he ended up LYING DOWN …yes, lying down. I was terrified and felt HORRIBLE about it. If a horse feels the need to lay right down to get away from discomfort, something’s not right. But we made it out alive, and I’ve made sure that nothing of the sort has happened again.
Later, I realized that our problem was the secret I’m sharing with you now: Storm felt me disconnect and in turn, he tried to herd me back to safety. Every time I look in his eyes now, I’m reassuring him that I am with him – that I care and know what to do.
I hope this list has baffled and amazed you. I’ve seen evidence of these secrets first hand, teaching with my mom and in the pasture with my horses. Go out and see with new lenses. It’s great fun! Enjoy these next pictures! I took them while our horses were mowing our back yard for us 😛