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Tuesday, February 1,2011

Horse Sense

Tips for Working with Horses

By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller  

Children are different from horses. Parents are different from horse handlers. Sleeping in a barn is different from sleeping in a bed. Horses are bought and sold. Children are not. Horses pee and poop in a field. Children are potty trained to use a toilet. Raising horses is a lot different from raising kids. All that being the case, you might not expect to find any useful parenting strategies employed by horse trainers and their owners. But, then again, you might.

Consider the following:

1. Communication takes many forms. Most important is that horses understand what we are trying to say and that we understand what they are trying to say.

2. Horses push. They test boundaries. If the boundaries move, they figure the boundaries will probably move again.

3. If what a horse pushes on moves, you can bet he will push some more.

4. Horses don’t particularly care where our boundaries are, but they are more comfortable when we have some and are consistent with them.

5. If a horse can move us without a consequence, he has learned an important lesson.

6. Many adults blame the horse for learning that lesson and forget to look at the person who taught him that behavior.

7. How we react to a testing of boundaries will influence how the horse looks at us from that point on.

8. Many adults label a horse as pushy, disrespectful or bad, even when he has learned the behavior from his handler. They often want the horse to be fixed.

9. Catching a behavior early is easier to deal with than if it is allowed to continue for a longer period of time. It takes less energy on the part of the horse and the owner.

10. Sometimes the cure for a horse problem is to allow the horse to go for a good run without being chased.

11. Some horse handlers look at an unwanted behavior and label it bad. Most often that behavior is just the horse letting you know how he is feeling in the present moment. He is providing us with information.

12. What we do with that information flows out of how we decide to see that information.

13. Patience is important.

14. A horse’s body and behavior is telling us what is happening internally.

15. Most miscommunication between a horse and a rider results from the rider not giving enough direction. This often occurs when the rider is indifferent.

16. You have to stay connected with yourself if you are going to connect effectively with your horse.

17. The more upset a horse gets, the quieter you need to become.

18. If your horse increases his emotion, it is helpful to decrease yours.

19. Very few new horse-training techniques exist. There are only those that are new to us.

20. Horses thrive on consistency.

Obviously, not all horse owners treat their horses with the respect these ideas reflect. Some people beat their horses, blaming them for inappropriate behaviors. Others let them starve physically or emotionally. Some ignore them and their health needs. Others frighten them with whips and shouting.

Our hope is that more people learn to respect horses and build trust without wounding their spirit. Perhaps these ideas will help more parents—we mean horse owners—raise more responsible, caring, conscious children . . . we mean horses.


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