Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
1 - Horses do absolutely understand when they have done something wrong, if they have been trained first about what is right. A horse that has been trained to stand still knows full well that by moving around, he is challenging you.
2 - Horses naturally believe in dominance. Watch a group of horses. They will display dominance, even to the point of bullying at times. Dominance is a language they understand. They don't always TRUST the dominant horse, but they UNDERSTAND who is dominant - and they care about it. It is more complex than just who hits hardest, but the willingness to kick or bite is one of the factors they respond to among themselves.
3 - Those who believe a punch in the shoulder makes a horse fearful need to stay away from my horses. They haven't gotten the memo, and I don't want them to learn that idea.
4 - As Kayty suggests, at least I don't leave bite marks on my horses. My mare does, regularly. Yet when there is trouble, the 2 geldings run to her and wait for her decision. She is harsh, but she is also consistent, proportional, and fair. My goal is to communicate the same to my horses, and to her. I try to treat her the way she treats the geldings. And so far, she seems to understand that just fine.
5 - As best I can tell, horses understand righteous anger. They don't understand temper tantrums, but they fully understand a person getting angry for a reason. They get angry among themselves as well. Anger is OK, provided it is based on an action and it is proportional to the offense.
Yes, I punish my horses. I don't drag them to a round pen and run them ragged, and if a horse is genuinely fearful on a trail, I try to help them past that fear...but I will punish for infractions of the rules. And if I respond when the violations are small, they don't become big ones.
If Trooper tries to bully Cowboy in the corral, I can shout "Trooper!" from 200 feet away and Trooper will spin around. He knows that if he doesn't listen to my voice, things will escalate. That, in return, provides safety for the horses and for me. I wouldn't want to walk into their corral when they are hungry, carrying food, if they didn't believe the fork carrying the hay could be put to other uses.
In times of high stress, I don't think horses trust wimpy 'leaders'. When my spooky mare gets fearful, it isn't enough for her to feel good about me. She needs to believe I'm bigger, tougher, and smarter than her fears. Otherwise, she'll bolt. Been there, done those, and don't want to go back to those days...
"People can teach us the rules, but only horses can teach us the art of riding."
Last edited by bsms; 01-14-2013 at 08:03 AM.