I have said this to many students over and over again. I have seen people take their horses behavior, mistakes and communication personally if not very personally. Why do we do that?
Well, in my experience, there are several scenarios people feel like their horses’ behavior or actions are personal. When a horse does not do what you ask, you assume he did it because he doesn’t like you. He would do it for you if he liked/loved you. Another one I see is similar, He wouldn’t do this behavior if he liked/loved me. You think your horse gets what you are asking and is purposely not doing it. You think your horse injured you on purpose. Then there’s the idea that my horse should always want to be with me and should always want to do whatever I decide we should do.
Let’s put this in another context. You probably have a friend, family member or partner that you are fond of. Have you asked them to do some task and they didn’t do it or even said they didn’t want to? Did you assume they don’t like you? Did you think they were doing it on purpose? When someone does or doesn’t do something it shouldn’t injure the relationship. It is a difference of opinion or agenda. In healthy relationships, we talk about it and come to an agreement that is good for both of us. We also don’t always want to be together and don’t always want to do the same things as each other. Even if we care very much. I feel this way about my relationship with horses.
I never take it personally when a horse has a different agenda or idea then me. I am so grateful they allow me to ask for the things I do, It doesn’t enter my mind. Look at it from their point of view. When a horse wants to eat grass when I am walking him, I don’t think why does he want that grass when he is not supposed to eat it. I think of course he wants that grass he’s a horse and I would love to give him some. Then we can have a conversation about how he could get some grass and when might be a good time to get some grass.
When it comes to being injured by a horse, whether it is being thrown off, kicked or bitten. As frightening and traumatic as that can be, I always know the horse had a reason for the behavior and that they are generally communicating something strongly to us when they do this. Just like they would to another horse. Sometimes, we don’t see their small communications until they feel like they need to shout at us. Sometimes when I get a horse in for training that is supposedly behaving badly, I spend the first 30 days trying to see what that horse is saying and why he is saying it. I often find that the horse had a very good reason for saying what they said as unpleasant as it may be for us.
So if you find yourself taking your horses behavior personally, remember it’s not. Just as I say to my horses when I may set a strong boundary, It’s not personal I just need you to understand that this is not ok with me. And you know what? They don’t take it personally. Oats for thought.
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