We all fall into the trap of making assumptions about our horses, quite often without even realizing that we do.
When unwanted behavior occurs (when a horse won’t stand for mounting, won’t be still when working with his feet or head, etc.) you often hear people come up with a list of excuses. “Oh, my horse does this because when he was young (insert sad story here),” or the “the previous owner . . .” and so on.
While the stories told about horses may be true, past experience should not color our perception of our horse.
Yes, previous bad experience or incorrect training can certainly have serious repercussions, but horses are very forgiving and will, with some guidance, learn new behavior. I’m sure there are severe cases where this may be more challenging, but the point is, don’t get in the way of your development and that of your horse by vehemently clinging to old baggage.
Being prey animals, horses are hardwired to be fully present in the moment. They instinctively have to be on the lookout for possible danger and predators. Horses don’t dwell in the past . . . rather, they are concerned with their safety and well-being in the present. It is here that we as humans have much to learn from our equine friends.
Our desires and goals often drive us. So we arrive at the stable with baggage already loaded. I want to train this, load there, ride here, win this, jump that, etc. Your horse doesn’t have those plans, so don’t be disappointed when things don’t go your way. Instead, consider how you can improve your connection with your horse that these ideas become things he would like to do with you, together in harmony.
Be present with your horse and develop your ability to observe what is going on in a moment, without preconceived ideas or judgment. If we cling to old stories, we may prevent ourselves from seeing what is actually going on.
So the next time your horse does some unwanted behavior, Stop. Breathe. Observe. Question. Get a new pair of eyes from a friend if you need to, but don’t just assume. Examine the situation, ask questions and change your approach. Remember if you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same result. If it isn’t working, change your approach!
Until next time, may the horse be with you!