Horses are simple creatures full of complexities and nuances. Horsemen, over the ages, have developed “methods” of working with horses. Some of those methods relied on domination of the horse to make him do what was required. Others looked for ways to understand how the horse thinks and reacts and use that understanding to offer him a place in the human’s world.
Horsemanship can be very simple. Horses are one of the most adaptable creatures on earth. Provide them with good feed, clean water, a little shelter from the worst weather, and they’ll be happy. If you’re going to work with them, show them the job they need to do, support them through any uncertainties they may have, and allow them to be comfortable when they find the right answer. Simple….not necessarily easy!
In my opinion, we humans fail as horsemen when we look for someone to give us a “method” to work with our horses. There’s something inside us that needs to have the “recipe” for success. If you think about the hundreds of “self-help” books on the market, horsemen aren’t the only ones looking for answers from others. The difference between horsemanship and other areas where we seek help is the horse. The horse is real. He is a true reflection of his genetics and environment. He learns what he lives and lives what he learns. He never lies. He is not a complicated corporation or market with set trigger points. He is a thinking, feeling creature with reactions to us and his environment. The more consistently we can make him comfortable with what we are asking him to do, the more predictable his reactions will be. The stronger the bond between the horseman and his horse, the more likely it is that the horse will look to the horseman for leadership and comfort in challenging situations.
If you’re looking for someone to help you get through the rough spots with your horse, I’d suggest that you look for a horseman who is truly interested in you and your horse and your unique situation. I would shy away from the circus acts, the “rock stars”, and the salesman offering you the gimmick that will cure everything. If what you’re being offered is complicated, confusing, or requires an investment in certain equipment…..run! Our relationship with a horse is special. There is no easy way to develop a leadership role in your horse’s life. It is, however, simple. Watch horses in a herd and listen to your horse when you’re with him. Stop trying to do things to him and start working with him. Offer yourself to your horse and wait for the return on that offer. Not complicated, not confusing…..simple.