Proving our great leadership by controlling every step with micro managed total domination, and demanding complete subservience.
A blog is doing the FaceBook rounds that explains about pressure and release training in a sensible way, but then goes on:
Every time my horse wants to do something that is his idea…then immediately make him do the opposite…. if he walks off 4 steps after you stopped him then immediately back him up 4 steps…
Now if you are trying to back him up and he is braced against you, head in the air, fighting it and you at that moment release the pressure then you just taught him “OH if I put my nose in the air and fight it then I get relief from pressure.
Remember WHOA MEANS WHOA not “ok sweetie we are gonna whoa now but if you want to take a couple extra steps after I say whoa then thats ok with me cuz your my baby smooch smooch”
No questions asked, you are the boss, that horsey is a sneaky little critter, one step on his own and he will be the leader!
Really? Surely leadership isn’t about power and domination, leadership is about listening, it’s fluid, and thoughtful and complex. Any idiot can dominate a horse!
What our blogger doesn’t do is question why the horse is resisting a rein back, or failing to stop on the w of whoa.
Horses are generous by nature. .. if they don’t do something it is generally because they have no clue what you are on about or they physically can’t do it, or it hurts.
To me this dominatrix attitude is where the rot sets in… horsey won’t rein back, he puts his head in the air, he opens his mouth, so the great leader of horses keeps the pressure on until the horse gives in, or rears up and fights more violently, so then what, the great leader of horses mustn’t be beaten at any cost… so they put horsey in draw reins and tighten his noseband and force him to do it.
But what if the horse didn’t do it because he didn’t understand… wouldn’t it have been better to go back to teaching it on the ground, just one baby step at a time, maybe with a little pressure and release, but definitely with a positive reward, a kind word a scratch on the neck… he’s generous, he wants to please, that was a good experience, he wants to do it again.
NO!!! You cannot LOVE them into behaving. You have to be a strong and confident herd leader and you will have an obedient and secure horse!
But just supposing he didn’t do it because he’s in pain, now he’s in even more pain, he can’t tell you about his pain because you have now bound and gagged him, he has two choices fight or give in. So he shuts down, he gives up. He puts up with the pain, because your great leadership has overpowered him, you won’t know about it again until his body starts breaking down… but then you can claim on the insurance to get him mended, or sell him on or put him down… and then you can get a newer model.
The saddest thing of all is all the likes and endorsements of this blog, nice people who love their horses have now realised it’s okay to get some spurs and to make their horses obey them. It’s so much easier to blame the horse for being naughty than to question why the horse isn’t doing as it’s told, and if he isn’t lame, well heck, he can’t be in pain, and heaven forbid that we should question our own riding ability.
Interestingly this blog is on a horse sales site, it bemoans well dominated horses being sold to weak people, you know, the ones who won’t use force, and sure, the horse needs to know his boundaries, you can’t be having a horse kicking and biting you and napping and bolting. But surely the answer is to go back to basics to establish a respectful relationship, and to explore the possibility of misunderstandings and pain related behavior, to listen to what the horse is trying to tell you, to hear the whispers way before he is screaming… surely that’s leadership.
… and to those who accuse me of being on my high horse and preaching… this is just my opinion, just like you are entitled to your opinion. I am not saying I am a great leader, or that I know all the answers. I am learning, and you know what… the more I have learned, the more I realise how little I know. But I sure as heck know that relationship and leadership isn’t about absolute control. One of the prerequisites of dressage is submission, it’s dictionary definition is ‘the action of accepting or yielding to a superior force or the will of authority of (another) person’. I am so grateful that I have found so many fabulous horse people from around the world who are ditching what in my opinion are these outdated and dictatorial ideas, and if the sentiments expressed in this blog resonate with you, then join me and other like minded horse lovers at www.concordiaequestrians.com. Together we can change perceptions.
“It is through cooperation, rather than conflict that your greatest successes will be derived” Ralph Charell
Photo with free to use licence – full details at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gag_bit.JPG