Something I try to live by every day.
Some of the horses that arrive to us may not be that pleasant to be around initially.
A few things to bear in mind, some of them have had very little life experience, have never left the safety of home or if so, not for a prolonged time, often they have had a few regular handlers.
On the other scale some have had many negative experiences, have been moved on many times with many different handlers. Either way, they are thrust into the unknown, a new environment, a new routine, new tasks to learn and new directors. This can be overwhelming and cause the horse to employ coping mechanisms which might involve some degree of flight response, aggression or shutting down. We’ve all felt angry, irritated, nervous or tense and can probably agree that these emotions don’t make us feel great - increased heart rate, uncomfortable, anxious; we can also probably agree that when we are feeling these things we are not that fun to be around and they can affect our interactions and relationships. There is also a tendency to be more defensive when we feel vulnerable and although the horse may function differently to us, having different priorities, security, survival and safety are at the top.
Clarity and consistency are the first steps to predictability, hence security and eventually trust and along the way you’d be surprised how many of those unpleasant behaviours start to diminish. We can also teach more productive coping mechanisms, those which make the horse feel more positive feelings, by reshaping and conditioning their responses.
We have had horses arrive who have been given many labels, varying in degrees of negativity. It’s important not to let these preconceived notions dictate our mindset going into a training session. Often when a horse is described as pushy, disrespectful, arrogant or similar, it can shape the way they are approached, often with more dominance, more force and greater pressure. When the horse then responds with more of the same, more labels are added which continue to influence future interactions. Surely, we all know by now, that assumptions make an ASS out of U and ME…
It’s worth noting that many of the pushiest, most argumentative, stubborn or aggressive horses we have encountered have emerged to be some of the most insecure, often exhibiting poor relationship and social skills both towards people and other horses, when they start to drop related behaviours they may switch to the other end of the scale and become anxious or overreactive, once again, continued clarity and consistency help guide them towards a middle ground.
Acknowledging, creating a dialogue and listening to feedback also helps to decrease the need for an escalation in communication if they feel they are not being heard. For us it’s about uncovering their true personality, or identifying the positive aspects and cultivating those traits so we see more of them. The more insecurity or trauma involved, the more patience and time it will take to unearth these, so try not to judge a book by it’s cover!
CADENCE HORSE TRAINING
Striving to maintain an encouraging and inclusive culture among fellow equestrians. We're passionate about all things equine including behaviour, biomechanics, training and horsemanship!