We’ve been spending quite a bit of time building new fence around our place. So, I got to thinking about the old saying, “good fences make good neighbors” and wondered if good fences make good horses too? We build fence to keep our livestock or pets on our property and to keep our neighbors pets or livestock off our property. We want our fences to be sturdy enough to do that job but flexible enough to “give” a little should something hit it accidently. Because we fence large areas, we use materials that are designed to do the job, are cost effective, and are relatively easy to install.
So, how does all of that relate to horsemanship? With virtual reality being all the rage these days, if we think about our personal space as being the virtual area we want to fence, how do we build good fences so our horses know where to be? On the ground, we need our horse to respect our personal space. We can’t have them stepping on us or pushing us out of the way. We need to have a fence keeping us safe. But, this fence needs to have gates that are easy to use so that we can go to our horse to create the bond we both crave. This fence we build around ourselves causes our horse to develop respect for us so over time, the area we have fenced off can get a little smaller.
In the saddle we have more tools with which to build our fence. And, our fence tends to be less rigid and more moveable. Think about a one strand electric fence that is moved to allow livestock access to fresh grazing. We create these fences with our reins, seat, and legs. With these aids we can discourage our horse from venturing into a certain area or we can open up our fence to allow them to explore something new. With time and consistency, our horse begins to recognize our fences and respect what they represent. They know when the one strand of electric fence is “hot” and to stay off of it and they can see when that strand comes down and they are free to move into an area.
Good horsemen seem to consistently build real good virtual fences. Their horses are nice to be around because they respect the fences created by the lead rope, rein, and body of the horseman. The fences aren’t built out of harsh materials with the intention of inflicting pain. They are more like rubber band fences that allow for the give and take needed for a horse and rider to find an understanding. So maybe it’s true that good fences can make good horses! Even if they are just virtual fences.