The Top Ten-ISH Things I Learned From Horses
10. You can train a horse to do just about anything if you are kind. When you think about it, horses let us ride them. That’s pretty epic on a very basic level. And, you can expand that training beyond your wildest dreams if you like, if you are patient and kind, if you listen to what your horse is saying.
9. Your horse can train you to do tricks just as easily. The horse that paws, acts naughty, or kicks and stomps is training you to respond to them. Often we do, with attention, treats, and more hay as a “distraction”. The horse that won’t take a bit unless you have a treat? He’s training you.
8. A horse that acts out is most likely uncomfortable. Horses will do a lot of things for us, including tolerating a certain amount of discomfort. But the moment your horse acts out by bucking, rearing, not going forward, balking, refusing to pick up the canter, stopping at fences you name it, chances are there is something physical going on. Listen to what he’s telling you, and under what circumstances.
7. Natural horse keeping is not always the BEST horse keeping. Ask anyone who has a Cushing’s horse with the hair coat of a yak in South Florida during the winter, and anyone who has a thin skinned TB senior that can eat a bale of hay a day and still lose weight. You need to clip some horses and you need to blanket others. Same goes for shoeing (or not). There is no reason to draw harsh lines in the sand about keeping horse’s “natural”. (Also, see #1).
6. Winning a class at a horse show is not as rewarding as losing a class. When you lose a class, you have an immediate list of things to work on, a dose of humility, and some added motivation to learn.
5. Every horse has that one quirk that is never going to be trained away. I have taught horses to urinate on command, be ridden without a bridle, to respond to hand signals from 20 feet away. There is still no way I can get this particular horse to deal with the vacuum, or this other particular horse to tolerate his tail being brushed. Sometimes, you just have to accept their weird quirk as the “one thing” that just IS. Respect it, move on.
4. Horses can teach you to forgive. If you have ever lost your temper with a horse, you have also probably noticed that the next day all is forgiven. It’s a great big eye opener as to how you interact with horses, and also other people.
3. Horses are your mirror, and they can teach you how to control your breathing and heart rate. A lot of folks unfamiliar with horses often ask me if horses can smell fear. I think horses can smell apples from 100 yards. I also think horses look to us for subtle cues as to how they should be feeling, and they notice and respond to our breathing and heart rates. I often say, “If it’s a big deal to you, it’s a big deal for your horse”. Predicting a spook because it’s windy, chilly, there’s a bag, dog, kid, loud noise, whatever will generally generate a spook. Training yourself to control your heart rate and breathing will guarantee that in stressful or scary situations, one of you has your wits about you. Your horse will notice.
2. Horses are much more than animals to ride. They are alive, they feel pain, they have social needs. I’m not going to stir the pot and start assigning human emotions to horses, that’s the topic of a relatively long book. I will say that horses are amazing creatures that deserve my reverence and respect.
1. Murphy’s law always applies. Unless you are expecting it to apply, in which case it does not. In a nutshell, horses love to keep up guessing, and then we usually guess incorrectly.
0. Horses will only teach you if you are willing to listen, learn, question. Every single day I learn something new. Every. Single. Day. I make a conscious effort to open my mind and my eyes. Sometimes the horses teach me things, but mostly it’s you guys. Your responses, experiences, and insights into your own lives with horses is a learning experience all by itself. I hope it’s the same for you.
What has your horse taught you?