Monday, January 26, 2009

Intro to "common horse problems"

There are no problem horses, only problem riders. Experiencing a "problem" with your horse? Well, as difficult as it may be to hear, it is usually a result of you. I have been there too, where "yea my horse is great but...". My warmblood colt, Koolaid, had an entire LIST of problems!! He kicked, he bit, he struck out with his front legs, he bucked, he reared, he reared and struck, he had NO impulsion, was lazy, carried his ears flat against his head at all times, doing any farrier work on his feet was always a huge fight, and he was generally as pleasant working with as a bloodblister under the thumbnail. As I learned more about horse psychology and the relationship between horse and human, it turned out that Koolaid had only one problem - ME!! So instead of trying to force him to work "in partnership" with me, I had to learn a way to earn his trust and respect to the point where he naturally saw me as his leader and wanted to follow!! Coincidentally, I found this followed over to my other horse at the time as well (Silver, my Quarab) as well as, later, to any other horse I worked with. Work became play, and bonds and relationships strengthened into true and solid partnerships.

Horses are very unlike humans and thus are motivated by different things and think completely differently! As a prey animal, their primary focus is on staying alive, even if it means maiming, injuring, or killing themselves or you. When they're in "reactive" or "instinctive" mode, they're not thinking or reasoning. They're reacting based on the instincts mother nature has provided them. From our perspective, some of their fears and reactions may seem unreasonable, but to that horse it is very real. How do they know when the next lion might pop up? My Quarab, Silver, to this day has a set of claw marks on his chest from some animal. Most of our problems with horses are not actually "misbehaviours" but are the result of an underlying problem we failed to address - earning a horse's respect or earning its trust (whether in us or in our leadership). Futhermore, a horse is a prey animal, so it is only natural for them to not want to work with us and to rebel against our requests as predators, particularly when we behave as predators!! A horse looks at us and evaluates us within 10 seconds: say, he smells like a carnivore, he walks like a carnivore, he even reacts like a carnivore! Yup, must be a carnivore!! Why would he choose to work with us, particularly when he feels his survival could be at risk?? So how does this apply to your common everyday problems?

Just as a side note, all of the problems on this list are problems I have encountered at one time or another and are also common problems I hear from fellow riders all the time, which is why they are here!! My list also follows that of Pat Parelli's, though I have expanded upon each problem with my own research and experiences (just in case you are wondering why the organisation of the list seems so similar!).

The point of a partnership is that you and your horse are working together effectively! Smooth communication (and therefore no "vices") via effective mutual communication every day is very possible!

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