Let’s wipe the slate clean.
Let us imagine that we were a machine, and our only task was to observe and take down information. As this machine, we were unable to attach value, understanding, meaning or emotion to what we see.
What would you then notice from your horse?
What would you then notice from your world?
What would you notice of the horses and riders around you?
Now compare the objective information with your value system. Don’t listen to others, what does your gut tell you about what you see and feel?
Wipe it all clean. Re-construct your reality, if your old reality is not helping you or your horse.
Often we as horse people can labour under our judgements. Our horse does something, we attach a judgement, a meaning and a value to it. That judgement may or may not be serving us or the horse in a good way. When it becomes clear that this judgement is not serving us, two things can happen. We double down on this judgement, like a dog with a chew toy, and pull back harder on it harder to prove ourselves right- often at the horses expense. Or we stop, take a breathe and reassess EVERYTHING we have done to date. Do you need to do it like this anymore? Is it good, useful or beautiful?
The fact is that the world around us means nothing unless we attach value to it. And here is the kicker: we can attach ANY value to things that we want to. Why not? It is our life, our reality, our memories. We get a choice!
Just because it was a tradition to do something a certain way, does not mean it should always be done that way. Most rules can be broken. Even hard and fast rules that seem finite can and should be bent if the situation requires it.
Step by step, simple technique based training, that offers your horse ‘prescriptions’ can be so problematic because it dangerously oversimplifies the complexities of inter-species human-equine collaboration!
I remember meeting people, at saddle consultations, who had plenty of opinions on my ‘strange’ saddles and how they are not good for horses (I work with flexible tree saddles). Meanwhile, in my opinion, their riding left much to be desired, balanced, stiff, un-coordinated, heavy handed or ignorant. Their horse was full of what I felt to be anxiety and despair, and both the horse and rider exuded an overall atmosphere of unease and unhappiness.
The same moment as they attempted to admonish me for representing these products and my methods in working with the products, I smiled. My smile was inside to myself, because if I had smiled at them openly they may have read it as hostile. I smiled to myself and felt protected. Because I knew of a paddock full of horses, included my own, with healthy backs and happy attitudes, all working under these saddles supplied by me. I knew that their judgement had everything to do with them and absolutely nothing to do with me, at all. So I blessed them, built a wall around them, and left them as I found them. So I can go forwards without their baggage.
Same goes for horse training. I have encountered other trainers who have openly and directly criticised my work as a horse and rider trainer. The same moment they said this, I smiled inwardly and felt protected. Because I know of Sanson, a horse whom people with 25 years experiences with horses, were unable to work with safely or successfully, until he met me (who had zero experience with young horses prior to him). Sanson who is happy, healthy and safe horse today who loves learning. Milord the aggressive gelding made mindless by sport, who I slowly brought back to riding health and contentment over the course of a year, who rides is owned by my friend and colleague now who rides him bridleless. I know of Spice, a mare who looked to me in a crisis to help her when she got into a wreck that involved 3 meters of tangled chain and a salt lick. Alaska, the mare who couldn’t turn or stop and who learned to do this with me in one ride. Shakira the mare who usually shied and or reared when mounted, but not when I mounted. Bianka who can work with me safely with concentration in a tent in a windstorm but not with her owner. Poldek who just this week refused to let two farriers and the man who feeds him twice a day every day for the last six months catch him from his paddock, but who put his nose in his halter for me when I showed it to him. I could go on! I actually don’t feel the need to prove myself to people who have already set themselves against me. I will let my work speak for itself. And if others want to work with me based upon that, great! If not, great! I am not attached to the outcome. Not every horse person will be the right client for me. But my ability with horses is sacred to me and I am not ashamed of myself to say that directly.
Judgement. What makes people go out there and lash out at people? Is it hormones? Insecurity? Anger? Resentment? Trigger-pathologies? They don’t know how to reach out in a healthy way so they lash out to get the healing or attention they deeply crave? I have no answers to this, only vague notions of what might be true. But people tend to be much harder than horses generally.
Catch yourself. Wipe the slate clean. When that little monster in your belly wants to jump out your throat and attach a finite label onto something, a label which is an ultimatum that puts you, the horse or someone else into an inflexible box… stop yourself. Throw some balance in there just for a change and ask yourself…
“What if I could be completely wrong?”
What if my horses anger is not directed at me personally, but at how they feel about their life and themselves? Unless you keep your horses at home, 80-90% of our horses life… we are not there! The answers are often hidden from us for this reason. Unless your horse was home bred and has always lived at home with you, you do not know what triggers your horse might have to bad memories from their past, that you might accidently trigger.
Everything I say to a client, despite how confidently I say it, I always have an internal awareness that I could be wrong. I am ready to be wrong. But I confidently try what I feel to be right. I also have the same attitude with my horse when I train him alone. I always keep in mind: I might not get what I want when I ask this. This does not stop me from doing it, or saying something clearly to a client, but I always temper my approach with the possibility that change might show up at any moment.
I am ready and willing at any moment to ball up that concept and throw it to the bin if another understanding of the situation presents itself which is stronger or more convincing.
Spooky behaviour is not always fear. Aggressive behaviour is not always anger. A horse not doing what you want is not always direct disobedience. What if there is something going on that you do not have the education, awareness or ability to comprehend or understand right now? What if the answer will take years to show up? What if the horse is thinking something that you will NEVER be privy to, and that is why they did not acquiesce?
The benefit of the doubt. Innocent until proven guilty!
It is vital that you have judgement with a horse. But ask yourself; are you in active control of your judgement? Is your judgement creating something better for yourself, or is it creating more sickness with you and your horse.
Wipe the slate clean and try stopping yourself before you jump to conclusions. Question yourself.
Judge yourself before you judge the horse.