Horse Behavior and the Equine Partnership is something I had missed out on despite my riding for many years with trainers from a variety of backgrounds… European, South American, dressage, jumper… When they looked at me they saw: my tack, my position, what I was doing right and wrong, and my goals… The one subject I now consider as the most important, they never mentioned. The most important and obvious is the HORSE!
They never asked me questions such as:
Where is your horse’s mind today?
How is your horse feeling?
Is he mentally available today?
What was his attitude when you greeted him in his pasture or stall?
How may his attitude affect today’s ride?
It was not until I audited a two-day clinic with a horseman who had a totally different approach in how he worked with the horse. For the entire length of the clinic, he never mentioned anything that I had heard before. The clinician started by taking a horse to our untrained eye, looked like just any other horse. Right away he began to point out “signs” that could show us what the horse was thinking, feeling, how he was going to react to us, and so forth. These things looked so obvious once we auditors knew what to look for.
The clinician showed us ways to recognize when our horse was “processing” and accepting information and questions that we asked of us. Realizing that after so many years of lessons and training, I had never once considered my horse: I began to stir around new thoughts and ideas and questions about how I was interacting with my horse. I had never understood the connection that having good communication with my horse while I was on the ground could so greatly affect my rides. I had never thought about my horse’s mental availability to hear my opinions without defensiveness, I had never considered his feelings or mood; I had always treated him as something waiting to serve me, as opposed to being my partner.
It took a number of years of watching, learning, auditing, experimenting, and hands-on experience to accumulate, process, sort, and apply the learned knowledge and what I developed as Alternative Horsemanship. Although we all use words like “training,” I like to think of my interactive experiences with horses as learning, communicating, and having Conversations with the horse.
Most owners who send me their horse tell me that their horse has only one or two problems or that the horse is “really good most of the time.” What people do not connect is that most “issues” or areas of concern with horses are not the actual problems but signs of something much deeper and bigger. Every horse is an individual. including his past experiences. I work with the horse from his current mental, emotional, and physical starting place.
Most major problems seem to stem from a lack of confidence. The horse instinctively protects himself by ignoring the owner and “takes over” the decision-making process. When horses do this, they usually don’t make the same decisions as a human would because of their instinct to protect themselves. Their best defense and self-preservation mechanism is to RUN! Whether it is forward, sideways, or backward, if the horse is in control and feels threatened, he will move in the direction of his choice. We hear comments as: “he bolted and I fell off”, “he pulls back when tied”, “he runs over the top of me when he is nervous”, “He acts like I’m not here and ignores me”…
If a rider is not giving their horse 100% of their attention, the horse will take over as a way to protect himself. The unwanted chaotic behaviors that follow are often seen as the issue, rather than the symptom of a horse that is insecure.
Take a look at TEC’s Charm School to find out what Sam Harvey and her staff can do for you and your horse! Interested in enrolling your horse in Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey Horse Training? Click for online registrations and payment HERE