A different perspective
Wow. I’ve walked away from this thread twice already but it’s like a drug, I keep coming back for a fix.
Sooooo,…. Remember that old Monty Python line about “and now for something completely different” ? How about allowing me to present a different perspective, not meant to offend anyone’s view? (This is somewhat rhetorical, ‘cause I'm not sure I don't want to run like heck after posting.) Just a crazy thought from decades of observing and training.
My first thought was the title “not really training but….” follows a common line of thought. Let’s back into that line of thought since it would be shared by the majority of horse owners today.
If horses and human are prey and predator critters, and horses have helped human civilization for some 5,000 years based on those characteristics, that might make a good starting point to find come common ground.
So, assuming some of the folks reading this would agree to that basic premise, some of the folks might also agree or even have observed that foals, when first approached by humans, are typically respectful of humans, most times to the point of being fearful.
If one can accept that horse are naturally respectful of humans (at least initially) at what point does a horse become disrespectful to the point of contemptuous enough to discipline, or at least threaten to discipline a human? I would suggest that this behavior is learned behavior. Not looking to start an argument, but if you buy the prey-predator theory supported by most behaviorists, and have observed, or at least accept the born-respectful-to-the-point-of-fear, then I don’t think suggesting the threats and intimidation by horses of humans is learned behavior is difficult to accept. (Wording is terrible, but I’m not terribly gifted.)
If you are still following my train of thought, then the question is “when/why did Sunshine change from being respectful, to being threatening (disrespectful)?”
Just to try to head off the reasons, or excuses for the (mis) behavior. If I take Sunshine to the vet and he needs some stitches are we going to have to double sedate him and twitch him or even lay him down to put in the stitches? I would suggest if your horse is always respectful and never believes it has a right to discipline me, I am a safer human because I have nurtured a safer (respectful) horse.
I try to get my students and clients thinking in terms that “they are responsible for everything their horse does or fails to do.” We teach that contemptuous disrespect is learned behavior, and the owner/handler is either going to nip the bad behavior in the bud when it starts to bud, or by allowing it, we are in fact encouraging the bad behavior. If the horse remains respectful, it is not going to try to discipline the human. I believe if we look at it as a training opportunity that needs immediate priority over sidepassing, changing leads, collecting etc we don’t have the bad behavior baggage with which to contend.
Again, where and when did this horse learn to disrespect the human? We could say we didn’t teach the behavior, but if the horse learned it, we humans must have abdicated our responsibility to prevent him for learning. I would conclude that this issue is very appropriate in the training section if you buy into that as the owner you are responsible for the health, welfare and training of your critter. If you are not responsible, who is?
I don’t want to waste the reader’s time, (or mine) by discussing how to handle behavioral issues, if we can’t even agree that this is a behavioral issue, or if we don’t agree that behavioral issues should be handled.
If I didn’t approve of that teenage kid threatening my teenage daughter’s if she didn’t do what he liked on prom night, I certainly don’t think anyone is being out of line expecting a horse not to threaten my daughter… or anyone else. In humans it is called consideration, respect, and good manners. I don’t see any reason to call it cute from a critter that instinctually feels a need to dominate (lead) his peers or be dominated by (follow) his peers.
Thanks for considering my view.