Creating a Partnership


      I believe that horses are always pushing for leadership, however, that does not mean that they are happiest as leaders. The lead mare is responsible for watching over her band. That responsibility is a lot to carry and requires the horse to be extremely vigilant. Have you ever noticed that often it is the horses lower in the pecking order take a lot of naps. They do not have to worry about the safety of others to the same degree. 

     While many people hope for an equal partnership, I have found that horses can struggle to find their place without clear leadership. In a herd, horses often struggle to find their role, but once it is established, tension in the herd typically dies down. The same goes when working with your own horse. The most stable relationships have clear boundaries.  Before you become partners, you must become a leader. This may be disappointing to think about at first, but being a leader does not mean you have to lose your friendship. 

     You have the choice of what type of leader you would like to be. It is common practice to force your horse into submission through training tools and harsh correction. Those practices allow riders to create clear boundaries and often times, these riders will quickly accomplish their goals. However if your goal is a partnership along with your skill oriented goals, there are other ways. A few ways include...

1) Establishing boundaries- Even relationships between human require boundaries and clear expectation. Horses are no different. You must be consistent and firm when necessary. 

2) Rewarding the try- When training through pressure and release, only up the pressure when your horse does not try to answer your request. Allow your horse to find the answer on their own. This allows the horse to feel successful, when they come up with the solution. At the same time, they are able to make choices for themselves.

3) Acknowledging your horses thoughts- Horses are constantly communicating with you. They may express frustration through snorting, fear through their body language, relaxation through yawning, thinking by licking and chewing, and so much more. In order to be a fair leader, you are responsible for making your horse confident. When your horse feels afraid, do not rush them and force them to conquer their fears. Rather, work with them to tackle their fears and find ways to give them the confidence they need to be successful. Notice when your horse is thinking; take a second with them to process.

4) Spending time with your horse- Look at the time you spend with your horse. What percentage of the time are you asking your horse to do something for you? Do you take time to praise them for their efforts? Spend time with them in the pasture. 

     There will always be room to improve your relationships. These are a few ways Karly and I are working to develop ours.

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