Our horses ask this question all the time, no matter what we ask them.
‘Come with me’
Too often I see that people either don’t see their horses asking them a question, or they see their horse challenging them. Maybe the horse is. But maybe the horse needed to challenge their human.
I see people answer to a horses’ ‘Why?’ with;
‘Because I said so’
‘Because it’s your job.’
‘You have to.’
‘You have no choice but to follow my direction.’
I think horses deserve so much better, and have so much more to offer. If you don’t have a good answer to a ‘Why?” but continue to push them to submit, follow, respond and acquiesce, you’ll always miss something in the horse. The horse will never be truly authentically generous with you because you won’t let them. The horse see’s only your barrier, your fear, your bossiness, your mindless need to control, dominate and force a result and the result in the horse is that they cannot be 100% themselves with you.
Do it long enough and you have a broken horse. Indeed the long standing word for a well trained horse is ‘Well broken’.
Broken horses can come in many forms. There is the dead behind the eyes trail plod or school master, who long since gave up the need to express their needs and wants and just perform without vitality, understanding or joy. There is the mindless ‘difficult’ horse who was made so crazy by the Behaviour Prison they were subjected to that they decided that their life with people must be one long protest, they run away, they kick, bite, attack, or become unridable out of a chronic need to protest their situation, they need some understanding and their humans seem hell bent on NOT understanding them. And the worst, is the horse who does everything you ask, never dead behind the eyes, but there is a small sign of discontent at every moment, a tightening in the eyes, swishing tail, anxious mouth, sudden departure from set tasks… and when you take them back to the paddock, the moment you unclip the lead rope they turn and walk away from you like you never existed, or what you just did with them had zero value to them and their life.
Well I am sorry if I have to BREAK something; to make the horse not whole in order to have me be successful with or at horse riding and horsemanship, then I would question the need for me to be with horses at all.
I never want to break the horses I work with, be it my own or others. My whole goal is about developing a rapport, relationship and common understanding with the horse, by first learning where they are coming from, who they are, their habits, inclinations, energies and attitudes, and working with them from where they are at. I show them gently that they can show me everything they have to say, I will listen. I will even take into account much of what they say. I reserve the last word for safeties sake. But I also try never to put the horse in a task or situation where I am not 95-100% certain they will be able to do it and do it well. If they have an unsafe moment, usually it is my fault. So, in theory, it is possible to never have to ‘reprimand’ the horse. You can just make your work together a mutual conversation, even if you have misunderstandings.
So many horse people see misunderstandings as a challenge to their sense of control and leadership. Those same people might have broken horses.