Uncommon Horse Sense







Manipulation of the body gains us access to the mind, access to the mind gives us control of the emotions.





 The Second Priority in The Horse/Human Relationship

 <third of four articles>


Respect: To consider worthy of high regard.

      Respect is probably the most misunderstood aspect of the horse/human relationship.  It has nothing to do with fear or intimidation.  Although the horse may temporarily be coerced to act through such activities, in no way will it be smooth, soft or supple.  He is reacting to a threat, rather than responding to a request.  If someone threatens me with a baseball bat I will probably do what he demands, but the first chance I get I will extricate myself from the situation, or remove the threat.  In no way, shape or form does he have my respect.  The horse views the situation similarly.

      It is imperative to instill and maintain respect in the relationship, for without it the horse has little reason to respond to the handler’s request, and is instead motivated by his own wants and desires.  Though closely intertwined, respect differs from trust in that it helps define the relationship within the herd.  Trust gives the horse the confidence to act, respect motivates him to act.

      Since the horse is always learning, if you are not teaching respect, he is learning disrespect.  We can not make the horse respect us any more than we can make someone love us, but we can practice some principles that instill respect.

      The surest way to instill respect is to show it.  Just because you bought your horse and pay his board, feed and vet bills doesn’t mean you “own him” any more than you “own” your spouse or children.  If you want your horse to respect you as herd leader, you must also respect him.  Teach him what he needs to know to get along in the human environment, develop his strengths, help him overcome his fears.  As herd leader your job is to guide him into a trusting partnership, not make him your slave.  Remember, you are not the herd leader until your horse says you are.

      Be Consistent.  The quickest way to loose respect is to constantly change the rules that govern the relationship.

      Be particular, but not critical.  The horse will never be more particular about how he performs than you are, but you must be fair in your expectations and judgments.  Don’t ask him take too great a step in his training at any one time, and don’t be harsh when evaluating.  Generally speaking, the more steps put into the training process, the faster learning occurs and the more willing to respond the horse becomes.

      Get the horse to yield backwards and laterally.  Horses do not normally move in these two directions unless fleeing from danger, or yielding to another horse higher in the herd.  Each time he yields (from the ground, or mounted) he is acknowledging your position in the herd.

      Ride with an independent seat.  Don’t use your legs below the knee, or the reins, to maintain your balance or position on the horse.  One of the best ways to learn this is to ride bareback with a halter and lead rope (one rein only, please). 

      Give the horse a focus to follow.  How can you expect the horse to follow your direction, if it’s constantly changing, scattered, or not even there?

      Constantly expand your knowledge, as well as your horses.  Most people “bore their horse to dull” by repeating the same thing over and over.  Just as in school, many behavioral problems stem from a lack of interest.  The horse has no concept of time so it doesn’t matter how long you work on something as long as it’s not boring to the horse.  You can maintain the horse’s interest, as long as you are interesting.  We most respect the teacher who encouraged us to rise to our highest potential.  You are your horse’s teacher, keep your lessons fresh, interesting and challenging.

      The horse is a natural follower, if he can find a natural leader.  If you want you horse to respect you as a herd leader, you must understand what leadership is.  There’s an old saying, “It’s far better to be trusted and respected, than to be liked.”  Become your horse’s leader, teacher and best friend … not just his owner or trainer.

      Next month we will examine how we can begin to communicate these principles in a language the horse understands.