Training a horse has a lot of similarities to raising children. The Bible says to train a child according to the way the child is designed. We can have a lot of rules and have the children toe the line, but when they approach the teen years or adulthood, those rules only apply if they feel guilt or have proven them as their own.
Horses are not moral creatures and do not understand good or evil, so trying to make them feel guilty or noble about rules isn’t going to work well.
Having a horse trained according to how it thinks as an individual has been a rare sight during my lifetime. (should I add: Eh, sonny, you listening to this old timer).
I have seen horses great under saddle- but the daily journey to get them there is a rough one. I have seen horses perform maneuvers on the ground that leave people in awe, but the ride is a constant battle. I have seen horses perform like robots inside an enclosed arena act like lunatics on the trail. I am sure the combinations of Jekyll and Hyde are numerous.
I have found that horses are often trained for something specific and if they happen to be good at something else , it is a bonus, not the norm. We apply a bunch of rules and expect the horse to care about obeying them. Or we don’t apply rules and expect the horse to love us. The excuses of, well, no one has gotten hurt yet, or , but, he’s so perty, seems to cover a multitude of sins. I find that these specific horses are often confused and agitated over changes in life. Changes that are actually a pattern- like taking horses out to the pasture everyday. The same horse has a fit every time, whether it is left in or put out first- as if everyday the rest of the horses have disappeared to someplace unknown.
Horses as social creatures seem to lack basic social skills. I know some horses need to feel comfortable by having lots of space. Some need enclosed areas. What happens when you need you horse to live with both. What habits can you impart that makes a horse obey you no matter what.
This is usually where I part company with others in my training. People say things like- well he does not like it so don’t teach him or make him do it. That is just the way they are. Do not make him feel uncomfortable. Or, I don’t want to do that, that is too much work.
You know what- my kids did not like getting out of bed, but as parents we taught them to do it. And it was not easy at first. They also learned to get to school/ work on time, be faithful to their teacher/boss and treat others with respect. None of that just happened. Both our children do it and they are as different in personality as night and day. The hard work we put into the initial stages have produced long term effects that have to be called to remembrance fewer times. Ever see a mother in the grocery store saying “no” over and over and louder and louder? Momma , that child don’t know what the word means- if they did they would have listened the first time. We need to be clear and consistent (ah, there’s a bad word).
I have seen people stand with a lead line on a horse (once they finally caught it), waiting for the horse to decide to go the barn to be ridden. They mostly do not want the horse to dislike them so they do not want the horse to do anything it does not want to do.
Baby, don’t own a horse. Or make sure you have access to someone else who is always willing to “help” you.
I am not saying to try to force a 12 hand pony do a 12 foot hunter stride. I am not saying take a 25 year old Morgan pleasure driving horse and beat her for not standing square like a dressage horse.
What I do say is: get your horse to learn to do things in such a way that the everyday life is a pleasure for you and the horse and anyone else that may have to take your place some day. No horse should live a life distressed because someone was too unknowledgeable or did not care enough to bring them to a better place. That kid in the grocery store is not happy getting his own way. It is distressful to be a kid in charge of an adult. It is distressing for an animal of prey to be in charge of a predator.
Just being nice and kind is not always good enough. A cavity from a life of not brushing and improper diet will not go away with brushing and proper diet.
There is a yoke we all have to carry- life is not about how much stress we can avoid. It is about being strong enough to deal with stress. Again, I am not talking distress. There are things that hurt that are not harmful. ( a poke with a tetanus needle hurts but it carries with it life saving properties). There are situations that are uncomfortable that lead to comfort.
Jesus said the yoke he offered us was easy and the burden light. It is still a yoke, it is still a burden. That is life. Most of us want to carry our own burden or toss it off, thinking that is the answer. With the burden, Jesus gives rest to those that labour and are heavy ladened.
That is what I want for my children and my horses. I want to give them the ability to live in a tough world, not run away and hide or get defensive and fight against everyone and everything. Shelter through the storm, not absence of storm. The strongest trees have faced strong winds and have the best wood for beautiful,long lasting furniture. Too many metaphors yet?