How is it that when our horse has an issue with something and tries to tell us, instead of simply listening to them and taking on their feedback, that we look at a way of silencing them? He bucks, we punish him, he tosses his head, we tie it down. He grinds his teeth, we strap his mouth shut – or worse! He won’t go, we kick, he runs off we pull harder on his mouth. He gets even more impulsive and runs off harder, shies at everything, pulls on the reins, pushes on our hands and legs and we, the ever inventive species, come up with more and more ways and even more gadgets to control, entrap, subdue and silence the physical behavior. And when we do succeed, even for a time, we applaud ourselves on our cleverness of fixing the problem.
We can no longer see it, so it must have gone away. Well done us.
For some reason, it never occurs to us that there is something wrong and that our horse would tell us what, if we’d only listen. But we’re so quick so try to control them and make the behavior go away so that we feel better, that we don’t stop to consider how our poor horse feels.
And if the gadgets don’t work, we can buy special feeds to calm our horse down, numb his mind and suppress his anxiety. We could of course just take a moment to wonder why our horse is anxious, scared, nervous, defensive, aggressive in the first place. But we don’t. That would mean taking responsibility for our horses behavior when it is much simpler just to blame him.
Horses are pretty straight forward. Most issues a horse has can be solved pretty easily if we just take the time to listen. Stopping the behavior doesn’t fix the problem, it just masks it so it can someday manifest itself in another, generally much worse way.
The more ‘stuff’ you need when working with or riding your horse, the more I would encourage you to stop, take a step back and listen to your horse. Things shouldn’t be that difficult, complex or dangerous. Horses are extremely tolerant, sensitive animals who will tell us all we need to know if we take the trouble to tune in to them and tap into their frequency instead of expecting them to tune in to ours. That is just ego. Put it aside, try to understand how your horse feels, communicate with them and try to help them be right instead of blaming them when things go wrong. Then both of you will have a much happier and more fulfilling existence.
Meredith Ransley 2016