The Worst Mistake a Horse Person can Make…

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Unfortunately this past week I encountered a horse person that I haven’t seen in a long while… angry, negative, aggressive, dictatorial, pushy, and disrespectful.

It made me so frustrated, sad, a bit scared, and grateful all at the same time. I know, those don’t normally go together.

I was sad for this woman’s horses, as I knew that they would never receive the kind, considerate treatment that I feel all horses need and deserve. This woman is scary. You know the type that you see in the movies who is the uncaring military captain who sends her troops into a trap on purpose. The female villain.

I have seen this woman around the barn and even though she would smile and seemed ok, you could always feel that something was not right underneath. It felt like something bad was always bubbling right underneath the surface and was ready to blow at any moment. That fake friendly.

I was also frustrated because I could see how she was treating her horses and I could see that they needed help. They didn’t like her but they did what she asked out of fear. You could see the learned helplessness in their dull eyes and their lowered heads.

But I knew that she would never take any help, suggestions, or ideas that would help her and help her horses. It is frustrating when you know you can help a horse by talking with their owner, but you also know they aren’t ready to hear it… words falling on deaf ears.

I’ve learned with time and experience not to just step in to help someone with their horse unless they ask or they need immediate help in an emergency situation. I will, however, sometimes ask if they would like a suggestion. If they say yes, great. If they say they got it, then I let it be.

I cherish my time with my horse and my way of being with my horse. It is unique and special. I don’t like it when someone comes up into my business and tells me how I need to treat my horse or how I should handle my own horse’s training.

It is disrespectful, arrogant, and pushy. Especially when they tell me that I need to punish and hit my horse when my horse hasn’t done anything wrong. Yes, someone actually came into my training session and told me to hit my horse because he wasn’t listening to me.

And she wasn’t nice about how she said it. Very dictatorial, condescending, and demanding. As soon as she barged into the indoor arena my horse went running in fear. He could feel her anger and negativity the second she opened the door. So could I.

She stormed in telling me that “in her training” she would never let a horse do that and that I needed to teach my horse a lesson. Oh boy!

I calmly stood up from my chair and asked why she thought my horse wasn’t listening to me. She said that my horse was too close to me and that is a no-no in good horsemanship. Then she said horses should never be free like that and they should always have a halter on, at all times.

Her horses have halters in the pastures and in the stalls – 100%. That just tells me that her horses don’t like her and won’t listen to her so she has to have a halter on to catch them. But that’s another story.

Well, if you’ve been following my blogs you will know that I train at liberty and I love it when my horse chooses to be close to me and nuzzles me. It is a very special connection and my horse is showing me love and affection.

Because of our relationship, we do lots of things together without tack. I don’t need it because my horse listens to me and we have fun working together. It is a mutual respect! We like being with each other and there’s no need for force.

This woman obviously knew nothing of respect, for me or horses. She then continued on her tirade of how ALL HORSES ARE THE SAME. She said, they ALL need a strong hand, they all need to be told what to do and when to do it, and if they don’t listen they need to be taught who’s the boss. And… that I needed to step up and take charge.

Then she went into how she was an expert with horses and also a trainer since she had been working with horses for a whole 6 years. She acted as if that was a lifetime with horses and because of those 6 years she now knew it all… “everything there was to know about horses because all horses were alike”.

At that moment I let all my rebuttals, explanations, and frustrations go because I knew it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Then I just felt grateful.

  • Grateful that I didn’t have to deal with this person for long and I could just leave.
  • Grateful that my horse never has to deal with the pressure and traumas that this person is going to cause any horse she owns or trains.
  • Grateful that my horse and I have such a loving and wonderful relationship.

And grateful that I wasn’t in this person’s life. Can you imagine how she must treat her family and friends? She treats her horse like this and she says she loves her horse. She is very dictatorial, controlling, and abusive but she thinks it’s the right thing to do and that she is being nice. Wow!

Life really is a matter of perspective. How you look at a situation makes such a big difference.

Here I was happy, my horse was happy and we were sharing a special, loving moment together and all this woman saw was weakness and a lack of control and she wanted to come in with a whip and a heavy hand.

She didn’t see what was really happening…the connection, the love, the companionship.

She made the worst mistake that a horse person can make… Being a Know-It-All.

I have owned and worked with horses for over 50 years and worked with over a thousand horses in that time. The one thing that is always consistent with horses is that there is always an exception to the rule, no matter what the rule is.

Horses have taught me a lot and will hopefully continue teaching me lessons until the day I die. And I still won’t know it all. There’s just no way anyone can every know it all. There’s too much to learn and too many variables. It’s something I love about horses and being in their world.

For instance: We all know that horses are herd animals, right? Therefore, they will always prefer to be with other horses than be alone, right? Not always.

Did you know that Friesian horses actually prefer being with people over other horses, unless it is another Friesian? Yup.

I have seen this over and over working with Friesians. It was one of those pleasant surprises horses have shown me.

If you give a Friesian a choice of being with a quarter horse or you, they will pick you. And if you give them a choice of being with a quarter horse and another Friesian, they will choose the other Friesian.

They also prefer to be alone in a single pasture with horses around, than to be in a pasture with a quarter horse. I’ve seen them just go to the other side of the pasture to be alone. So there goes that ALWAYS rule. This is a generalization as well from my personal experience, but I’m sure there is an exception to this too.

It has always been important to me and in my teachings to students to show how different all horses are to one another. Different breeds react differently to weather, stress, and different types of training methods. Then within the same breed, horses are individuals just like people and like and react to things differently as well.

Another instance: Have you ever heard? – horses are tough, and you have to hit them hard and use spurs when riding so they feel it.

Well, a Friesian horse can be so sensitive to their owner and negativity around them, like bullying from another horse, that it can result in physical illness or colic. Whereas a quarter horse can be pushed more than they like but they will remain stoic and not show the trauma.

These are also generalizations within the breeds, but they show how different horses can be to one another in how they show their emotional state.

The number one lesson and the most important lesson I can give any horse person is to never be a know-it-all.

There is always someone out there who knows more than you, who has more experience than you, and who can help you take the next step in your horsemanship. Respect that and respect people no matter where they are with horses and their learning.

Six years is very young in the learning process. Enjoy the process and keep going. Your whole world will change the more you learn. Even me, I am still learning. Fifty plus years and over a thousand horses later, I do know a lot, but nowhere near everything.

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know”.

Please continue to learn about your particular horse, his breed, his personality, his individual likes and dislikes, and be a friend to you horse. It’s the two of you in your own world.

Just in case you have been through a similar situation I want you to know it happens to everyone at some point in their life with horses. So, don’t let the naysayers or so-called experts change the way you treat your horse. Listen to your gut and most of all your heart and do what’s best for you and your horse.

Here are some other lessons I would like to share with you from this story:

  • Be respectful of other people and their horses. Allow them to be them and you be you. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Don’t push your ways, your thoughts, or your opinions on others. If they ask then of course allow a discussion to happen, but don’t give them a lecture.
  • Understand that you are in a different spot with horses than someone else and let that be ok. You don’t know their experiences so let them enjoy their horses on their own terms.
  • Stay out of other people’s business unless someone is causing harm to another person or animal.
  • There is no 100% with horses. There is always an exception to the rule. Horses are individuals just like people and can be very different to each other in many ways.
  • There is no One-Fits All for everyone or every horse. You can work with generalizations but I guarantee that somewhere along the way a horse will surprise you.
  • Life with horses is ever changing and growing. Continue to learn new things and enjoy the process.
  • Always be grateful for what you have with your horse, even if you want more. It could always be worse.

Have you ever suffered with this kind of insufferable person around horses? Or in your everyday life? Please feel free share to with me.

And remember, I am always here to help you and your horse if you ever want to reach out. I truly want you and your horse to have your dreams come true, be happy and healthy.

Until next week…Happy horses!

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