From a Whisper to a Scream.

“Hit him!” If I am not yelling, I am certainly speaking in a loud, firm voice. How did it come to this? The answer is the need to rescue a horse from a long-winded abuse of kindness.

Let’s start at the beginning; loving horses is fine, but they don’t care about that. Horses will choose respect over love every time. Understanding herd dynamics is crucial for a rider; to partner with a horse, we become herd members. Respect is their primary herd language, learned from Mom on their first day. So step one for a rider is to give up speaking English and learn the language of horses.

The situation that has given rise to this rant was watching a series of various riders try to get their horses moving forward. Kicking (nagging) a horse every stride trains him to be dull and deaf, then riders become stiff and frustrated. Nagging is a sure path to mutual despair.

There is a misnomer about horse whispering- you don’t always whisper. I like how Tom Mowery describes it, “You be a rude as they are.” Instead of bickering with your horse, be a kind leader and stop threatening him with the whip- actually pop him once. When there is a consequence to his apparent deafness- hearing improves. He will be grateful for the clarification and make a better choice next time. Then ride on happily as if it never happened , without a grudge.

Nagging your horse into a stupor is a different kind of abuse- and it insults both parties. A horse is a proud, smart partner and if you cue him as if he is disabled and dim-witted, he will behave that way. The kind thing to do is give him a tap with your whip and show him that you respect him enough to ask consistently for his best.

Horses have always been my best teachers, requiring a perceptive level of asking and listening. One horse had a habit of kicking me in the arch of my foot if I over cued him. On the other hand, if he was being lazy and I would give him a quick correction- he would exhale and let me know it was fair. It was his way of saying I might be ambition-impaired but I am not stupid.

Anna Blake, http://www.AnnaBlakeTraining.com

(Photo: Brisa doesn’t appreciate being talked down to.)

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