Without warning the horse turned and lunged at it’s owner, teeth bared, ears pinned. I quickly stepped in to help and no one (or horse!) was hurt but the owner was left shaken naturally, for some minutes. The horse did not have any follow through or any real intent to hurt it’s owner, or else it surely would have had it wanted to, but what could cause such a seemingly unprovoked attack?
Horses will always respond directly to what they get from us. Where as humans will most often respond to what we see or physically feel or experience, a horse will respond to anything and everything in their environment. In the more obvious of cases for example, they’ll shy from a sudden movement or noise, bite or kick if they feel pain or under threat, bolt or buck if scared or hurt. But they also respond and just as clearly, to things they feel and sense. And this includes the energy we give off and the intention or purpose of our very thoughts and feelings.
To us, as humans who are really no where near as adept at reading these intangibles, these action and reactions often just manifest as mysterious and perplexing behaviors.
But rest assured, these things are just as real to a horse as the sun shining in the sky, the grass they eat and the dog that leaps out from the bushes.
We do see it and acknowledge it in small ways quite often. I’m sure we can all think of a horse who allows some humans to approach it but not others. Or farriers, vets, chiropractors who quickly put a horse at ease and yet others who always seem to have trouble with the exact same horse! Or the day we come home from work upset and in a bad mood and consequently our horse behaves badly that day.
But, it is even more than this. More common place, more everyday and more frequent than many horse lovers realise.
This is going to sound really obvious but I would ask you to really consider what I’m about to discuss.
If we can change our heart, we change our horse.
Anxiety, fear, anger, trepidation…..all of the unwelcome human emotions, effect our horses just as clearly as a spur or a whip. If you approach a horse with any of these in your heart, he or she will respond in kind. Even if, by all intents and purposes, outwardly at least, you look exactly the same as the next person who feels none of these things, your horse will be able to tell. Of course, if you look close enough, you’ll see that there is a stiffness, a tension, hesitation about a person feeling these emotions. But many times we don’t see these things. We may even be good at disguising them from others, or even from ourselves! But there are no secrets when it comes to horses. They know. They can sense it, see it, smell it and distinguish it for what it really is. And as a flight-response prey animal, have the intelligence to know that its not good.
And so, the calm horse gets anxious, the confident horse gets wary, the quiet horse is hard to catch and the steady reliable horse gets nippy and threatening. And we wonder why?
We look for answers everywhere. We call our friends, the vet, the horse trainer, the holistic expert but nothing really seems to work long term. Because the answer we seek is not ‘out there’. The problem instead is looking us right in the face…..at least when we look in the mirror.
We’ve heard the phrase before. Your horse is your mirror, and this is very true. But sometimes the mirror is cloudy and hard to see into. Or it’s cracked so we get a warped reflection. And sometimes it just isn’t as simple as that. For all that we look, we still cannot see. It takes a very brave person to look objectively in the mirror and give themselves an honest, objective and solutionary reply rather than one that just focuses on what’s wrong.
So put aside your mirror and instead of looking for answers, try listening. If your horse is doing something you don’t want, no matter how big or small, the answer will always be to listen. Your horse is giving you feedback. He or she is trying and trying and sometimes trying!…to tell you something that you aren’t hearing.
You can keep at your horse as much as you want, trying to fix him and change him but you’ll get nothing of the sort. Unless you are prepared to change yourself, change what is in your heart, then nothing will change. You might train your horse or teach him to submit or succumb but in his heart and soul, nothing is changed. Only the way he feels about you because no matter how hard he tried, you didn’t hear him.
The trouble is that we just want our horses to be on our frequency. We spend so much time and effort trying to get them to do what we want and no where near enough effort on taking into consideration what our horse needs.
If you have what I call a ‘Good Boy’ horse, he’ll put up with you, find what it is that he can live with and be, to keep you happy. A ‘Good Boy’ horse will put up with and tolerate a heck of a lot. And we feel like we’re pretty marvelous because our horse does what is asked, does as he’s told and doesn’t complain too much. And sometimes, this most social of creatures will come to us for a scratch or a rub, reaffirming just what a good job we’re doing. He has figured out your frequency, he can live with it for the sake of peace and relative harmony and so all is good in the world.
Other horses simply won’t put up with it. Not even in a small amount. This is true most often of young horses who haven’t yet figured out that the best route is to just give in. What these horses need us to do, is to find their frequency. Tune into them and find what it is that they need, how they need to move, express themselves, exist. Once we’ve done that, then we can begin to introduce our ideas but only when and if the horse is ready.
A good horseman can and should do this fairly quickly. A horseman worth her or his salt, will be able to find the horse’s frequency, listen to the horse’s feedback and work together from this aspect, in a pretty short space of time. This is as it should be. If someone is taking weeks or even months to tap into the horse’s frequency and be able to have a basic conversation with the horse, they’re missing something. They either aren’t listening, are not hearing or don’t understand the conversation. When this happens and a period of time elapses, this time spent with the horse turns from conversation to training. And the period of teaching the horse to give in, to succumb and retreat begins. The best of the horse begins to die.
Many, many times I have seen horses being misunderstood. Misdiagnosed and mistreated. They are blamed for their actions and behaviors when all the while it was what was in the heart (and mind) of the human that caused the issue in the first place. Horses get reprimanded, punished, blamed all the time, every where. They get medicated, isolated and sent to the trainer to be fixed. Which fixes nothing.
I’ve seen anxious horses contained and controlled, aggressive horses hit and beaten, ‘dangerous’ horses kept in isolation, treated with extreme caution and prejudice and even put-down, all because the human was either not aware of, could not or would not control what was in their own heart.
A little bit of anger and frustration will make a horse fearful and flighty. Anxiety can make a horse aggressive and defensive, trepidation can make a horse cautious, nervous and reactionary.
If you desire to have your horse and yourself on the same wavelength, to both be confident and fully enjoying yourselves together and for him or her to cut you some slack from time to time, it must first begin with you. Change what is in your heart, listen to your horse’s feedback and put effort into tuning into their frequency and you will change your horse, forever.