Friend or leader?
May 18, 2009
“Yeah, but he’s my friend and I want to continue to be friends” said a friend of mine stern in her voice. She was at her first clinic with me and the discussion at hand was, as it usually is, how participants want to improve their relationships with their horses. My friend said that her relationship with her horse was perfect and there was no way to improve upon it. After a moment of thinking, she said that her horse sometimes engaged in bratty behavior. This behavior, which was difficult to discuss, emerged in two ways. First, he didn’t want to go in a direction that she wanted to go when he was asked, or he doesn’t want to go at the speed she wants to go. Defiant behavior was more common when she was leading her horse than riding.
“My guess from your story is that he has limited respect for you since he is not insecure or tense. My suggestion would be to teach him to obey. You have to hold your ground so that he only does what you want to do, and not what he wants to do, even if it’s only sometimes.” I said which is when I got the reply at the beginning of this article.
“Think of two human friends. For the friendship to last, there needs to be a mutual respect and trust between them and they need to agree upon what they will do when they hang out together. They could take turns deciding what they do. This kind of friendship between a horse and a human cannot be sustainably enjoyable. Additionally, it could even become dangerous if for example you and the horse are going to have a discussion every time you want to change directions, speed or gate. The horse needs to learn to always obey,” I said being confident that my explanation was convincing enough.
“Yes, but then the horse will be afraid of me,” my friend protested. “It doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t see that your children are afraid of you, and they do as you ask them to do. You are fair to them and they choose to obey you and do so without fear. That’s how we need to have our relationship with our horses too. So that both parties benefit from the relationship like true friends even though you are in charge all the time,” I explained and now fully.
What type of leader are you for your horse?
In the picture Magnus has earned leadership over a young filly from his breeding. Yet, the rein is slack so the horse can move away should it choose to.