I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine recently, about her horse who had been unwell and who she’d had the vet out to, to see what was wrong with her. My friend had found it really hard to build her mare’s fitness over a period of months and began to suspect that there was something physically wrong with her.
She retold the conversation she’d had with the vet……….
“Have you had any trouble with her lately? Has she been playing up?”
“What kind of trouble do you mean?”
“You know, rearing, bucking, refusing to go forward, head tossing. That kind of thing. That’s pretty standard for horses with this condition.”
“No!…nothing of that kind. If she’s struggling, I back off a bit and let her rest……catch her breath.”
“Wow…that’s amazing! It’s great that you really listen to your horse.”
Further tests by the vet showed that the mare had some nasal scarring which was actually stopping her from being able to breath properly, so she was simply not getting enough air, which made her seem very unfit. My friend, who has a fair and reasonable amount of care and empathy for her horse, was simply taking note of how her horse felt and acted accordingly when she struggled to go forward for any great length of time. She’d back off, let the mare rest and catch her breath, before getting back to work.
But the vet’s questions and amazement at this response to the horse’s feedback was frankly incredible. While the vet totally agreed with my friend about how to manage the horse’s lack of air, her shock at the fact that my friend had listened to her horse and not pushed her to keep working, was amazing. She totally expected to hear that the horse had developed dome pretty serious behavioral problems over this issue and was surprised to hear how my friend had handled it.
Which begged the question from both of us….what the heck are people doing in other cases of this kind? Blaming their horse for being lazy? Punishing them for finding the work hard? Thinking their horses were bad, naughty, suddenly possessed if their behaviour made a change?
We’re so quick to tell our horses when they’re wrong, but conversely slow to realise that if we’d just take enough interest in the feedback they give us, we’d have far less problems with them and much happier horses. We’re pretty quick to take the credit when our horses do well, but should they do wrong we’re even quicker to punish them and let them know. We’re oblivious to our horses feelings and thoughts to the point of cruelty.
How far off the track are those horse owners who still think that horses are bad and dangerous and just out to get us? When will we realise that if we just take the time to be aware of and listen to their feedback, that life instantly gets better for both rider AND horse. Horses are always trying to tell us something, but most times their efforts land on deaf ears.
My friend did nothing more than to care about her horse and how she felt, but sadly it seems she may be in the minority!
- Meredith Ransley April 2016