Monday, April 3, 2017
3rd April, 2017 The Non-Conforming Horse
Last week I went out to three horses that were very afraid of people and their intentions, to the point that I had to express my doubts as to whether they would ever be ridden, despite the care and careful training that their owners were carrying out. In each case, something has gone so wrong with the horses' training in the past, in previous homes or with previous trainers, that they are finding it hard to let go and really trust that they are safe. It could be attributable to a lack of handling in the first place, poor or inconsistent training, and/or some pretty rough treatment.
Time and time again I come across horses where their education has massive gaps in it or where no-one has thought to check how the horse is dealing with it mentally. Instead it's all about the process, and often the process is lacking.
How does this happen? I believe it's because we have a false view of what a horse is. We are only taught how to work with the conforming horse; the domesticated, handled, 'conforming' horse. Equine colleges and riding schools only teach people how to work with and ride the 'conforming' horse. When the horse fails to conform to that model, when he doesn't understand what he is being asked to do, or has legitimate 'horse' reasons for not wanting to do it, often he is punished or something else is tried. He becomes confused and frightened, and then he is punished for being frightened.
We need to understand what a real horse is, what a real horse feels, what a real horse does, what he needs. Real horses do not give up their freedom by surrendering their heads and their feet, real horses don't allow other animals onto their backs, real horses do not give up their ability to move by entering enclosed spaces. When a horse does all of those things, for us, they are actually not conforming to what they really are. We need to realise what an honour it is that they do. We need to learn how to work with the truly conforming horse.