Tuesday, January 17, 2012


From 'Cesar's Way':

The most important thing to understand about energy is that it is a language of emotion. Of course you never have to tell an animal you're sad, or tired, or excited, or relaxed, because that animal already knows exactly how you're feeling. ... Of course animals can't always comprehend the context of our issues; they can't distinguish whether we're heartbroken over a divorce or losing a job or misplacing a wallet, because those very human situations mean nothing to them. However, such situations create emotions - and those emotions are universal. Sick and sad are sick and sad, no matter what your species.

One of the most important things to remember is that all the animals around you - especially the pets with whom you share your life - are reading your energy every moment of the day.

He is also reading your body language. Dogs use body language as another means of communicating with one another, but it's important to remember that their body language is also a function of the energy they're projecting.

You can learn to interpret your dog's body language by the visual clues he or she gives you, but it's important to remember that different energy can determine the context of a posture.

Horses are no different from dogs in the aforementioned quoted sense - ultimately, we are all animals and as such body language and energy transcends species differentiation. No, your horse does not perceive you as a horse however he does read and understand your energy and your body language on a constant basis - body language that may be perceived as predatory or as a leader and partner. He also uses this same language in his communications with you.
As a sort of sidenote: the fact that your horse may read your energy and your emotions is an important fact to keep in mind because your energy and emotions impact your behaviour and your posture. Emotional discipline is therefore absolutely crucial when handling horses. When you allow the horse to lead you into emotion rather than choosing and controlling your emotion, the horse will assume leadership and you may also negatively impact the relationship between you and your horse (for example, by unintentionally turning assertiveness into aggression as a result of your emotions and energy).

In my opinion the word dominance has received a bad rap; when we think of the word dominance, we think of a horse forced to be a prisoner instead of a partner.

The definition of 'dominant' as per the merriam-webster:
a : commanding, controlling, or prevailing over all others dominant culture>
b : very important, powerful, or successful dominant theme> dominant industry>

The word 'dominant' itself does not actually have a negative connotation without context. Therefore it is how we apply the use of dominance in the context of training that determines whether or not we use dominance in a negative manner or in a manner that is simply effective.
In fact, horses live in herds comprised of a hierarchy whereby there is a leader and members of descending hierarchy, all which includes 'dominance'. This is what we attempt to replicate in training - an effective but fair means of commanding and controlling the horse that remains in the horse's best interests and results in a happy horse.

As dominance impacts a horse's interactions with you: a horse may be exhibiting dominant behaviour or actions without it being an actual challenge to your status in relation to that horse. However every behaviour or action is always done within the context of that horse's social status in relation to you. This means that while your horse infringing on your space or even kicking out toward you as he rockets past you, loose in the arena, might not be a direct challenge to your status as 'alpha', it certainly is done within the context of where he feels he is socially in relation to you (which includes - you guessed it - the use of dominance). It is very important to be aware of your horse's social status in relation to you because this impacts his behaviour toward you and your partnership with him.

Here is a video with some good information:

He who moves his feet least is the 'boss hoss'. The horse who is best able to use calm-assertive behaviour and energy - dominance - to move the feet of the other horses in the herd is the horse the herd will turn to for guidance and leadership. It is important to note that dominance is not restricted to the hay pile but relates to every aspect of the horse's life within the herd.

How this relates to us and our perception of the word dominance: when people hear the word 'dominance' as it relates to horse training they often give it a negative connotation to envision a horse forced into submission. Yet in fact we may handle a horse utilizing dominance and creating submission while earning the horse's respect without force and without fear, without applying a dictatorship. To use dominance to influence a horse does not necessarily constitute forceful techniques that are harsh and offer the horse no choice and no dignity in a relationship. In fact, the horse may be worked with in such a way where he willingly and happily offers submission, where he willingly follows your leadership in a partnership. This is how it works in the herd, where the horse willingly follows the leader he feels best suited to the position.

The horse is acutely aware of his social ranking within the herd and in respect to individual members he works and plays with - including you - and so it is important we are also aware. As such, we may effectively establish boundaries and earn the horse's respect as one part of the whole of the partnership we develop with a horse.


Double A Training said...

Good Morning! You have an award on my blog! Thank you for writing a great blog!


Equus said...

Thanks Double A, I'm honoured! I plan on updating this week so I will be sure to continue the tradition - thanks!