Making War on Horses: Is it Leadership?

By reader request:

“Horses need a dominant leader; you have to make him respect you.” “You can’t let him get away with that.” “Kick him; make him do it right now or you’ll ruin him forever.” “He’s making a fool out of you –show him who’s boss.” “You can’t let him win!” Oh yes, and this one: “I break young horses.”

A few weeks ago, a client said something that stopped me in my tracks. We’d been working on re-habbing her new gelding who had nothing short of PTSD. Over the weeks, he was slowly beginning to trust again. She reflected, “He had a trainer like I had a father.”

In a blink, I was fifteen, standing under a tree with my father, who was spitting mad at me. My filly was nervous about pavement and he thought I’d been too slow coaxing her to step on it. Now it was his turn and he was going to teach her to tie. He snubbed her to the tree, spooked her to sit back, and then hit her on the back of her skull with a two by four. I can still see her quivering, trying to stay on her feet.

These were common training practices in our area, for horses and kids. He just followed tradition. My grandfather was a horse trader and a hard taskmaster. My father grew up working horses and farming with teams of mules who (he said) wouldn’t work if you didn’t beat them. And me, his daughter-when-he-wanted-a-son, might have been the first one in the family to love horses. Imagine his disappointment.

Truth: Not only do you not have to win every fight; it isn’t even a war.

An over-simplified history of humans and horses: Once upon a time there was a culture who saw the world in terms of art and music. Xenophon, a 430 B.C. Greek soldier/philosopher said, “For what the horse does under compulsion … is done without understanding and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer.” At the same time, the other dominant culture was warlike. The Romans drugged their horses and rode them into battle.

Nothing has changed. 

We’ve always had these two approaches to training horses, raising kids, and generally doing business. It can feel oppositional; men against women, old against young, science-based against self-taught, and since being called a “tree hugger,” it even feels political.

The most common thing I hear from riders about positive training isn’t that it works, although it does. Most riders say they were taught harsh habits but it never felt right. That being aggressive with horses was never comfortable but it was required by others. I can understand that. Standing against my father was tough.

Years ago, I read a scientific paper that described the physical reasons for why a horse can’t learn when he’s afraid. I held it as sacred proof and quoted it to prove my point about training with kindness.

But that was before a few years of working with various rescue horses, and horses who had been flunked out by other trainers, and the saddest, brilliant young horses who got pushed too fast. Horses who have struggled with violent leadership will be the first to tell you that they learn plenty when they’re afraid. But none of it good.

It makes sense; lots of us have tolerated harsh criticism from family for decades. Some of us rebel and never show the “respect” demanded of us. Some of us just shut down, our dreams broken and our self-worth destroyed. Just like horses.

Compassionate training can get some catcalls. I’ve certainly been criticized for training like a girl. There is that sour feeling that hangs in the air implying that we are cowards. That we just don’t have the guts to break a horse. We’re too weak to win the fight with a horse and too scared to even take the bait to fight the human taunting you. That this touchy-feely training is trash that goes against herd dominance theory.

The worst? I saw a video of a rider on her young horse. She was trying mounted shooting and her horse was confused and extremely frightened. Her “friends” cheered her on, urging her to fight him through it. The rider kept kicking, jerking the reins, and shooting her gun. The more confused her horse was, the more they yelled to encourage her to keep after him. It felt like a death-fight at a Roman Colosseum.

Readers also ask me how to deal with rail-birds who tell them they aren’t tough enough on their horses. It’s a good question. How do you defend compassion in the face of criticism? Why is there so much peer pressure to dominate horses? Do the intimidation tactics that they use on their horses work on you, too?

I notice it’s as hard to stand up to bullying as it ever was.

Start here: The FBI raised animal cruelty up to a Class A felony, with murder and arson. Pause. Think about that. It isn’t that the FBI thinks kittens and foals are cute. Statistics show a majority of violent crime begins with animal abuse.

After my father passed, my mother confided that she was always afraid that he might seriously hurt one of us kids. It almost felt good to have our family tradition acknowledged.

This might not be what you expected to hear about the “you can’t let him win” philosophy. It’s a topic that I take very seriously. I’ve certainly seen humans declare war, claim dominance using weapons –sticks, whips, and spurs. Only to run horses in circles until they shut down or cripple themselves. And if cruelty was limited to barns, as much as I love horses, I’d be happy with that. But it’s a topic that reflects more about who we are than we like to admit.

Humans are born predators. We make war but we are also capable of great acts of heart. How we deal with horses, dogs, and even children give us a chance to ask ourselves the hard questions.

Are horses who we really hate? Why is it so important for us to label each other victors or victims? Is it possible for our intellect and heart to rise above our predator instinct?

I’m not saying that how we train horses will bring about world peace. It’s just one place to start.

 ….
Solstice in Scotland: We’re in process of planning a series of clinics in June 2018. If you would like to host a clinic or attend a clinic, please contact me here.
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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76 thoughts on “Making War on Horses: Is it Leadership?

  1. I actually sucked in my breath when you described what your father did to your filly.

    and it still goes on, in some of the top barns too. Trainers who win in the ring all the time. Absolutely frightening.

    I’ll be hugging my horses today, a little bit longer.

  2. Krista Carroll-Venezia

    Thank you for saying out loud what hopefully many others are thinking. I believe there is a grass roots movement to transform the human/equine relationship away from the forced and dangerous dictatorship it has been in the past. Still, even some so-called Natural Horsemanship techniques are harsh and disguised as needed and appropriate. Thank you for sharing this view and spreading the word that relationship is key and being open to understanding is being a kind, compassionate and successful partner with the Horse!

  3. Karen Kohnke

    An instructor I know would say to her very young student, who was riding a nice pony, instead of “use you leg”, and describing proper leg aids, “Kick him like you kick your brother!” In my opinion this is just awful! I just moved to a new boarding place, out of necessity. Everything is so antiseptic. When I hand-graze my horse (as that is the only time they get grass), and let her take me to the grass she chooses, the owner and other boarders judge me as “spoiling” my horse. I like to free longe regularly. They think that anything free and not structured is a waste of proper horse training time. My horse is 18, never been sick or lame and never needed shoes. Other horses there have chiro and massage regularly which is nice if you need it but if they were let to be horses in a more natural way it would be less of a need for chiro and massage. But my choices are very limited. Yikes.

    Thanks for providing an enlightened point of view!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    1. Peer pressure sure doesn’t stop after high school, does it? Keep listening to your horse; he’s been a better friend. Thanks for this great comment, Karen.

    2. I, too, have been accused of spoiling my horse. Sometimes in jest, sometimes with a condescending tone. When my defense is that my horse comes to me when I call him, has never been rude to me and at times even protected me, their retort is that is because he is looking for a treat. That doesn’t even make sense to me. How can a horse be so intelligent as to manipulate a human yet at the same time be so stupid you have to teach them a basic lesson 1,000 times before they will learn it? I also ask would they prefer a bully or a partner?

  4. billiehinton

    The way a person treats animals, children, and those weaker than her/himself is more revealing about who that person is than any training methodology or leadership technique he/she is utilizing. Some of us are more “rebellious” than others when it comes to saying no, I won’t do that to my horse or no, you may not do that to my horse when paying for training or instruction whether privately or in a clinic setting. I wish we all learned as children to say no when something doesn’t feel right and that we then grew up honoring those around us, human and equine and everything else when they say no to us.

    I have a vivid memory of visiting a friend, when I was about 9 years old, whose family rescued a pony who had been disciplined with a 2×4 to the face. The eye was blue and swollen, almost hanging out of its socket. I couldn’t even fathom someone doing that to a living creature and we sat with the pony in silence trying to heal the pony’s eye and fear with our loving presence and make sense of that kind of abuse.

    As a mom and a psychotherapist I think the best thing we can do is teach our children and those we encounter about respect and kindness, and of course the way we teach this is by giving it to them and letting them watch us give it to all the living creatures around us. And teaching them by modeling it how to say no thank you when someone offers advice we don’t agree with, even when it’s a “professional” we are paying to help us learn.

    My daughter at age 9 or so stirred up an entire Pony Club group when she politely told the visiting instructor that she would not kick or smack her pony and then rode him to a quiet corner and got his focus back to what they were trying to do. We all as a family had to stand up and say no thank you to some Pony Club parents who wanted to scare a pony into the trailer. And a year or so later my daughter reported a rider who didn’t win a ribbon at a popular dressage show and took it out on her horse with the whip behind her trailer. There were a lot of ruffled feathers that day but it made an impression on everyone when the show manager instructed that rider to stop the behavior or leave the grounds.

    Most of us were taught to not say anything if we couldn’t say something nice, or to mind our own business, but I taught my children how to speak out and get help if they saw things being done that didn’t feel right or were clearly inappropriate or abusive.

    When we as a society treat animals with dignity and respect, I think we’ll be a society that’s ready to do the same for one another.

    Great post. Thank you.

    1. Billie, thank you for this insightful comment. The world will change one little girl at a time. And learning to say no is a great lesson for children. And adults. Silence equals acceptance.

  5. joepote01

    Very well written, Anna!

    I was reminded of a couple of years ago when I taking my stepson to weekly roping practices. I didn’t know anything about roping or even horsemanship, but I started bringing my own horse so I could be a participant rather than a spectator.

    Most of the guys were very helpful. Many were older than me. All were more experienced in working with horses.

    I received a lot of good advice that summer. I received a whole lot more poor advice. I learned to get pretty good at filtering.

    I remember one night riding my horse into the header’s roping box, and he kept wanting to move to the right corner rather than staying in the left corner. I knew why. He had been coming along pretty well with tracking and rating, and I had even roped a couple of steers from him the week before. However, like many inexperienced roping horses, he was starting to see the corner of the roping box as a high-pressure zone…a place he was expected to suddenly run out of in rapid pursuit of a steer. So he was avoiding the left corner, seeking a spot that he associated with more comfort.

    I was patiently working with him, moving him back over and asking him to relax.

    The guy running the steer chute (an older, very experienced horseman and farrier) suddenly volunteered, “That horse would have a lot more respect for you if you’d stop feeding him so well.”

    Startled, I responded, “I don’t feed him at all. All he eats is pasture grass.”

    “Take him out of the pasture. Put him in a stall and just feed him a couple of flakes of hay a day. He’ll respect you a lot more for it.”

    I just looked at him processing what I’d just heard. Finally, I just said, “I won’t be doing that. I won’t use starvation as a tool to gaining respect.”

    That was the last said on the topic. I went back to roping and nothing more was said.

    It still strikes me as a bizarre conversation when I think about it. Yet, I know some folks think that’s the way to train a horse…by force, intimidation, and starvation.

  6. ginette

    Oh Anna…
    How I wish you would do a training here, and that I could afford to attend.
    I am still—in my 60s— that quivering child, awaiting the blow to come.
    I can’t strike my horses, and I’m at such a loss at how to train. I’ve read, but do better when shown.
    It pains me, this cycle I’m in.

    1. Ginette, thank you for this comment. It isn’t easy to figure out what to do; how to train in a positive way. Especially if all we have seen is the other… Keep trying, your horse will let you know when you get it right… and who knows, I travel a lot these days. Thanks.

  7. This literally brought tears to my eyes, to imagine your dad and all his fury hitting that poor horse so violently. I get down on myself if I even bring any stress into the arena. I can only imagine how terrorized you both must have been. Sometimes we learn the most when we see how we don’t want to be, so perhaps the silver lining is you’ve changed the lives of many horses thanks to his example. I like to think even awful things serve a good purpose in the end.

    1. I hope we are all on a learning curve. I work with rescues and I see much worse than this. If he saw me now, who knows what he’d think. He didn’t have an easy start in life; I hope he has peace now. Thanks, Sheri.

  8. Joyce

    Another incredibly insightful post. I am a recent subscriber and appreciate so much your kind and loving approach to horses. How can anyone learn something positive when coerced? Thank you for your wisdom.

  9. Celeste

    Another blog that touches my heart to tears. As a teen a new stepfather provided a horse for me and brought with it the 2 x 4 to the head training methods. More than 50 years later I finally am able to have a horse of my own and your approach, the connection to him I’m reaching for, just makes my heart sing. I do have moments of frustration where I know I fall back into the old ways, but I am working on it. Thank you.

  10. Thanks so much for your posts Anna – this is the most heartbreaking yet enlightened post I’ve
    read in a long time..I realize too many people were raised with violence and don’t know any better and it’s passed on from one generation to another…So I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear there are people like yourself who are trying to change this violent way of training (and thinking). For all creatures , WE NEED TO BE THEIR VOICE and speak up when we see any kind of abuse….

  11. Melinda Codling

    On Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 6:29 AM, Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog wrote:

    > Anna Blake posted: ” By reader request: “Horses need a dominant leader; > you have to make him respect you.” “You can’t let him get away with that.” > “Kick him; make him do it right now or you’ll ruin him forever.” “He’s > making a fool out of you –show him who’s boss.” “Y” >

  12. Laurie

    When I was just starting out and learning to ride, I was taking lessons on a mare that had a reputation for being contrary. I was relieved to find out that she was a willing, patient (with a new rider), and talented mare. We got along quite nicely. One day after our warm up our instructor asked us to trot our horses over ground polls. When I reached the first stretch of polls, the mare decided that she needed to stop. My instructor yelled at me “don’t let her get away with that, she knows how to do this”. As I trotted off to prepare for our renewed approach, she didn’t feel right, like something was bothering her. I told my instructor that I thought she might not be well and she rolled her eyes at me and pointed toward the polls. I was new to this game and figured that my instructor knew better, so as we approached the polls I put my leg on firmly as instructed and the mare bucked so high and hard that she jettisoned me off that dressage saddle like a bullet. Early lesson learned: trust your instincts and be cautious about yielding to “experience” because some experience is all bad.

    1. I hate to hear this… we are supposed to be able to trust our trainers and my clients don’t always trust me… it’s a quandary. Important comment, thanks for sharing it with us, Laurie.

  13. I was most recently accused of “spoiling” my horse when I had him head to toe in anti-fly gear to combat an epic invasion of biting black flies. Literally clouds of flies that covered my horses spine like a dorsal stripe, and were perfectly happy to dine on humans as well. Another delightful consequence of hurricane Maria.

    This was said by someone who makes her living on the backs of trail horses, and couldn’t (wouldn’t) justify the cost or effort of trying to make them more comfortable.

    My former trainer often reminded her students “If you treat your horse like an adversary – he will be one.”

    1. Truer words… and interesting about the flies. They will be more dangerous for reasons like this if the weather continues to be extreme. Great comment, thanks.

  14. A place to start. A place to remain. This was wonderfully written. It made me think of SO many things, good and bad; compassionate and cruel – we choose, we are the architects of our horses’ (& our planet’s) experiences. I watched a group of men roping a little donkey over and over and over one evening at the facility where we have our Horse Trials – it was like watching a gang rape. I vomited. I left, helpless because any word from me to the (drunken) cowboys might have gotten me killed (not exaggerating)…

    1. I’ve worked with a rope donkey. Horrific for them. Period. Sorry for your impossible position that day and sorry for the guilt you still carry. We are a warlike species; we have to do better. Thanks for sharing this comment.

  15. I became a barn rat at the age of seven or eight and thus, have many memories. Sadly, I observed my own share of nasty behavior during an era when strength and might of fist (or any tool that would suffice) was the norm. But two incidences stand out because they were two times when I summoned the courage to respond in the moment without any thought of my own safety.

    At fifteen I found myself cornered in a barn with a very drunk, very angry parent who, wanting to make a domineering point, grabbed a halter and raised his arm to whip not me, but my horse. Out ranked, out-weighed, out-sized, I didn’t hesitate, and immediately stepped between the smoldering tower of fury and my cross-tied horse. Calmly and quietly I said, (to paraphrase Viggo) “Nobody hurts my horse.” I was close enough to see the mean dripping from his pores, but the arm slowly dropped and he turned, eyes bulging with disgust, and stormed off.

    My second act f bravery may have cost more in the long run because there was a small audience. I didn’t plan it that way, but that’s how it played out. Out on a group ride with close friends, I was ashamed and horrified when our friend (and farrier) began to kick his horse repeatedly in the shins when the horse failed to back out of his space quickly enough. I stepped between the man and horse. “No!” was all I said. “Just … no.” The excuses and logic started to pour forth, but the damage was done. For years I couldn’t look this man in the eye, little own ever ride with him again.

    No. Just … no.

  16. Suzanne in NC

    You know what comes to my mind reading this…..I was trained in the beginning that if you let the horse have his way, he will be ruined for life. Well, I’m pretty old, and realize the fallacy in that now. When you are so dominant with your horse, you miss SOOOOO much. You don’t realize when he/she gives you a calming move. You don’t see the tremendous kindness in their eyes. You don’t realize that every horse has a different personality and needs different stuff. But for me mostly I missed that they tell you everything using their facial expression and body movements. You will miss ALL of that during your domination!!!! I am so glad someone Woke Me UP!!! Anna

  17. Cody

    Intent. You say it up further. That right there. It opened my mind and showed me that my intentions are what my horses read and feel the most, regarding my presense. My mare, Kat, wasn’t always treated nice and I can sympathize. My few attempts at round penning her (early in our relationship and in my journey with horses), resulted in her running from me half terrified and definitley distrustful and confused, as to wth I wanted. I would use my hands in aggressive signals to get her to move or yield. TELLING HER TO DO AS TOLD! She shied and fled and threw her head up in defense (or offense). Anna, you helped me see that isn’t it at all. Now, we learn (ed) with each new situation. It took time, but once I got it…I really got it. I understood what you were saying. Yesterday, I accidently poked her in the eye, shooing a fly. I felt terrible. I started carrying on like I had gouged out her eyeball. I set about peeling her eyelids back, apologizing over and over the whole time. She stood and patiently allowed my meltdown and exam. She knew it wasn’t my intent. Now, I give chase, or jog by her, in the pasture. No, terror. No, confusion. No avoidance. Just her kicking up her heels and prancing around. First ahead of me. Then behind. I am just playing and she knows that.

    1. Good job! Round penning does a fair amount of damage to horses and she told you that was true for her. Nice listening, and great comment. Thanks, Cody for sharing your smart mare with us.

      1. I think we need to realize that “round pen” is a place for being with your horse. “round penning” should never be a verb, not an action phrase Like so many other tools that get misused.

  18. Maggie Frazier

    There has to be a good reason why so many women & girls become involved with horses after being abused – either verbally or physically. It says a great deal about the wonderful relationship that’s possible with these fantastic creatures. Although I guess the same could be said about any animal – why is there the need for some humans to feel dominant – over animals ? We aren’t, you know. They are so much better & kinder. And content to be themselves.

  19. Christina

    Reading about this kind of training and being with horses emboldens me to take this opportunity (if you don’t mind, Anna) to mention that the Intrinzen people have a WONDERFUL way of working with their horses, and part of it is based on giving the horse autonomy (in play and in the exercises they have you do to increase their proprioception in a very safe way, and to raise the withers and base of the neck), and a voice to say “NO”, plus pay attention to both movement and motivation science. They use +R to accomplish all this. Like many horse people, especially those coming to horses later in life, I have tended to be very obedient to the wishes of my various trainers and connoisseurs over the years, and then becoming totally conflicted because of the contradictory opinions generated on leadership, dominance, respect, trust, self carriage, self confidence, etc., etc. and I’ve found their writings, especially on Instagram, which I grudgingly joined just to be able to read their articles, to be mind opening, not to mention mind blowing, especially after I joined their online course in August. They are also on Facebook, and have a website.

    My thought is, wouldn’t it be wonderful for any empathic trainer to work with people who are totally invested in this mindset? As a student in the past, I might have had the courage to say “NO” to some of the things I was told to do, and so now I train with almost no one, because there’s just too much insistence on obedience, submission, forward, and God alone knows what else that is foisted upon us in the name of Horsemanship (Some Natural Horsemanship trainers can be some of the worst offenders!) So this could be a fabulous place to start for those who don’t have any guidance close by.

    I challenge your readers to go to Instagram and check on Kathy Sierra/Intrinzen’s posts there and do a lot of soul searching. I did, and I didn’t like some of what I found in myself, even though I have prided myself on being a thinking and empathic horsewoman. We can always improve ourselves while at the same time making the horse’s life a fantastic one.

    Thanks for the reminder, Anna. And I hope you will forgive me for the plug here for Intrinzen.

    1. Christina, thanks. And the plug is fine. I’ll also say that this is the method I use for training upper level dressage movements, and as stated in the blog, there have always been positive trainers and especially now. Sorry your experience was not the same but glad you found like minds.

  20. I know those kind of people who feel they have great power over other humans and/or animals by “dominating” them (beating, bullying, browbeating, etc.). But when I see them pulling their controlling behavior the first thing that comes to mind is how limited and small they really are. It takes a huge and expanding person to be willing to meet another living being on equal footing, to listen, to accept, to truly communicate. I know it is possible to have true communication with horses, I’ve witnessed it. I’ve seen the same with dogs, and with people. I also know how hard it is to overcome learned behaviors especially ones that bear the weight of tradition, but for all our sakes, we must overcome it.

  21. Sherry Walter

    I recall when I moved I had a 6 year old gelding who’d never been off the farm, never trailered. I had a couple of guys there who thought they could muscle him in (really? 1,000 # of horse?). I shooed them all away and sweet talked him into the trailer and grinned like an idiot all the way to the new place! ” Compassion for animals in intimately connected with goodness of character; and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals can not be a good man.”
    Schopenhauer

  22. Anna this article is so good. I am sure my experiences with my male taught Clinton Anderson trainers (and some women too) would ring very similar to your ears. May I share this on my Facebook page?

    Also may I ask you a question: I have two mustangs I did a great deal of the gentling on but I am not a trainer and I am really not excited about teaching them to be calm trail horses. EVERYONE here in Texas that I know of uses pressure/release and the stuff you speak of below. So my mustangs are waiting on me beucase I cant find a trainer and I really am not up for doing it myself (though I have done a lot with them). Do you have any suggestions for finding a trainer who is more gentle/positive reinforcement?

    Thank you!

    Mary Elizabeth

  23. Leadership comes from trust not aggression. These types of trainers will one day meet a horse that’s had enough, and no one will win a fight against a horse.

    1. Yes, even stoic horses aren’t that way forever. Most of these trainers flunk the horse out first… they don’t have a fascination with individuality in horses. Too bad, those are always the brilliant horses. Thanks for commenting.

  24. Tracey Sands

    I can’t help but feel the timeliness of this column in view of the events of the past week. This strange culture of dominance is so destructive and so widespread. I love all your posts, Anna, but this one feels especially important, as do the comments. The story of your childhood experiences will stay with me for a long time. It makes me even more grateful than I already was to have my horses at a barn where we all see our horses as valued friends. I don’t think there is anything that gives me more joy than the fact that my horses actively seek to be with me when they have a choice not to be, that they let me know what they think of things, and that we can work through everything together. This is as true for my gelding whose past was not what I would have wished for him as for the filly I’ve been able to raise myself. The abusive approach to horses (and the world at large) is such a circle of tragedy, isn’t it? Inflicting pain on innocent (and uncomprehending) creatures just multiplies everyone’s anguish, even that of the abuser. They miss out on every bit of joy and understanding that might have been possible. That you were able to break that cycle and find peace and compassion speaks volumes.

    1. The things missed by being a dominator is really the sad part for us humans… they miss that low nicker at the nighttime walk though and that’s the nicker that heals souls. Thanks, Tracey.

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  26. Hi Anna,

    Great essay. Thank you. You would find the work of George Lakoff very interesting and very much to the point. He’s a cognitive linguist who looks mainly at American politics but his work helps us understand the “great divide” in horse training. If you’re curious, I wrote a long article on his work and the connection to horse training in my blog: theclickercenterblog.com – Jan 2017 post. (https://theclickercenterblog.com/2017/01/) Again, thanks for a great article.

  27. Wow. Tears streaming and head nodding while I was reading your words…oh my, can we change? Yes. It is possible, but it’s not easy. Human nature being what it is, who we are, predators, sadly but true. Start with deep breaths. And just slow e v e r y t h i n g down. I don’t know about you, but I seem to always feel like I’m on the clock. Hurrying through my life, rushing through my days, but why? I only wish I knew the answer to that. I think it takes seriously conscious effort to just relax and be. For me, that’s where horsemanship, or just being around my horses begins. With me slowing down, leaving all the crap behind and just living the moment, and enjoying the present. No agenda, no competition, and dear God, please NO WAR! My heart breaks when I think of everything that horses (and other animals) endure at the hands of mankind. And I think you’re so right about the bullying. It is alive and well. It exists in so many varying degrees, but it crosses all lines. Age, sex, race, species; it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s exactly what the Bible describes as a world affected by sin. Your memory under the tree with your dad truly made me sick. Change begins with me…

    Thank you Anna

    1. Great comment, Lorie. I think we are always works in progress where horses are concerned. And it’s fine with me, I’ve been learning so much this year.

      As for my father, well, a snapshot in time. He had problems of his own, but he did buy my first horse. Thanks to him for that.

      Thanks, Lorie.

  28. I am grateful everyday that I found Connected Riding and that it found me. Peggy Cummings approach treats horses as the wonderful beings they are. They are our teachers and I do believe we are close to “critical mass” and that “training” is actually changing. This was challenging and lovely to read at the same time. Thank you all, Anna and everyone who commented.

  29. Eileen Kellner

    This is resonating so strongly with me as well. It is the exact issue I have been struggling with this past summer. I can relate to every story. I add my blown kiss to the winds of change. Thanks for shining the light of truth.

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  31. Toby

    Such wisdom! I have never seen the point in forcing a horse to do something he doesn’t understand. Thank you for reminding us how it is nearly always the Humans fault!

  32. Pingback: Too Much Love: Is it Partnership? – Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

  33. Anne Louise MacDonald

    Bravely written and right on the money!
    I cringed at first because I had lived that reality for too many years.
    When i started learning non-cohersive training, my life changed for the better in EVERY way.

  34. Great post. What you say is so true – bullying any animal really isn’t the way to go, and especially not horses, who are social ‘prey’ animals. The need to be ‘boss’ is a bit pathetic, really. On the other hand, my daughter had a really naughty pony (my book Diablo is based on it) and it was a battle getting him to do stuff – we had a natural horsemanship trainer and that worked better than any other method.

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