We, humans, have a point of view about the life of horses that differs dramatically from the horses themselves. How do I know? Well, I’ve spend nearly 35 years with horses and I am an animal communicator. I have, and still do, observed them for countless hours, spending time with them in paddocks, sitting in the middle of nowhere and just be with them. This silent attitude has opened a channel of communication based on trust and understanding.
1 – Working with your horse
By this I mean riding, competing, working and playing. Any activities that require your horse to work in an environment or pace that is not natural to the horse. Horses do not need to work or exercise (providing they have a paddock large enough for them to go for a gallop), but they will do it because we ask them. So many times I hear people telling me my QH mare Lily is wasted because I don’t do much with her. According to Lily, she is very happy with her life! Yes, she might be built for cutting and comes from a very well sought after American Quarter Horse bloodline, but she is content with what she does now.
Many times you see horse owners disappointed with the performance of their horses. Do they ever wonder whether the horse wants to work in this particular field? Probably not. Like humans, horses like and dislike some disciplines. Some might hate dressage but enjoy eventing. Some like to race, others prefer a quiet trail ride. If you your horse falls into this category, make a point to try something else. If you are into dressage and your horse is not, you might indeed need to acquire a dressage horse. Then make sure you look for one who is considered to be a dressage horse to avoid buying and selling horses.
2 – Riding is not everything
Riding your horse is not what horse care is about. As a horse owner, you become a member of your horse’s herd, and in some cases, you might be the only companion for your horse. Coming to see your horse just to ride him won’t impress him much. Horses need companionship and when you are the only one, your horse needs you. Spend time with your horse just to be with him. Sit with him in his paddock or stable and just do nothing. Play games on the ground with him. It might seem strange but your horse will actually bond with you more. It will also mean you will learn about your horse’s personality, likes and dislikes and behaviour in his environment.
3 – Routine
Horse are creature of habits. Their life depends on what happens every day as it means safety to them. Horses are prey animals and what they do in their day-to-day life revolves around their safety. Breaking the routine may generate unwanted behaviour. One of the most noticeable change in behaviour when this routine is broken is the time your horse gets fed. Be late in feeding your horse and you will see a pacing, unsettled horse, even possibly aggressive towards others.
4 – Safety first
Well, I’m not talking about your safety here. It’s the safety of the horse seen through his eyes. Horses are prey animals as you know. No matter how well behaved, how well trained your horse is, you should always keep in mind that all horses may feel threaten, one way or another. When this happens, the horse will take flight. What scares a horse has nothing to do with what scares us! A flock of birds might frighten your horse. That plastic bag that has been hanging on the post for a week may suddenly look like it is going to swallow your horse. Don’t assume your horse is immune to his environment 100% of the time. Now, this is for your own safety.
5 – Position in the herd
As mentioned earlier, being with your horse means you are part of the herd. There are only 2 positions you can hold there: the leader or the follower. It is much better for you to be the leader than the follower. In fact, you should be the leader if you want respect and trust from your horse. Some horses are born leaders and it may be fine for you to let him be. However, the problems you will encounter may come from a horse who desperately needs a good leader. If you are unable to take this position, you will find your horse trying to become the leader but a bad one, leading you into all sorts of problems.
6 – You want to lead? Then show me you can!
Becoming the great leader of the herd is not a walk in the park! It is a mission, and if you accept it, you will need to prove to your horse that you are capable of it. You will need to demonstrate that you have his safety in mind first and for all. Take your horse somewhere and he gets hurt, he will reconsider your position very quickly.
You will be tested on
every move you make, how you walk and talk and what you decide. You must act like a leader at all time and must put your horse’s interests and safety first. Fail to do this, and you will be replaced in the blink of an eye.
7 – We are not all the same
A horse is a horse but it doesn’t mean all horses are the same. They have different personalities, like different things and therefore, will behave differently. Stereotyping horses will only bring mistakes on your part. Each horse is an individual being and must be treated as such. One will like to be groomed while another will hate it. Learn what your horse likes and wants and you will have a great relationship.
8 – Who are you?
Horses have a formidable sense of detecting our true-self. They read our body language like an open book and also sense our feelings. Approaching slowly a horse you want to catch and hiding the halter behind your back will trigger the following thoughts in the horse: she is trying to trick me! She’s a predator! The way you act, behave, feel and talk to horses will be seen by horses as it is. You are smiling to your horse but are angry about something that happened at work earlier: your horse will see this as mixed messages and may react unexpectedly to this. Some people find riding their horse a relaxing activity after having had a bad day. The horse will not find this relaxing at all! He will see you as a suspected predator. You can’t trick horses in loving you! Love yourself first.
9 – Company
As stated before, horses are herd animals. They are very social and will seek the company of other horses. They will feel loneliness when not able to be with their peers. It is quite cruel to have only one horse with no other horses around. A lonely horse may develop unwanted behaviour such as cribbing, aggression, depression, aloofness and withdrawal. If you can’t own two or more horses, find a place to agist your horse where other horses are. Even if the others live next door, they can still communicate over the fence. Horses need to be horses! This one of the reasons race horses are spelled after each season,
10 – Please explain!
Horses do not think like us and when teaching something to your horse, it is important that your message be understood. When teaching a horse, you will need to build it up step by step. A bit like a house. Don’t go to the second brick until the first is solidly implanted. When your horse doesn’t do what you are asking him, ask yourself whether he understood in the first place. Then there is no need to repeat exactly what you asked since it did not work. Think of another, simplified way of asking, and don’t get mad at your horse. It’s not him, it’s you. For example, I am currently teaching Lily to count with her foot. I ask for 1, then she stumps her foot once. That was easy enough. Now I asked for 2 and said “1, 2”. Well, we didn’t pass 1. Why? Because I said “1” first. She understood 1, not 2. She doesn’t know, like I do, that 1 + 1 = 2. Instead, I had to teach her that the word “2” means 2 stumping of her foot. So instead of asking “1,2”, I asked for “1” first, and then “2”. I get one stomp for 1 and two stomps for 2. Easy!
To conclude, to understand your horse, you must think like a horse. To be able to think like a horse, you must learn about them and about your horse as an individual. If you want to have a real conversation with your horse, then learn animal communication. Enjoy!