A question anyone can answer - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 15 Old 07-16-2010, 11:58 PM Thread Starter
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A question anyone can answer

I have been thinking a lot about things that have been said to me, things I have believed my whole life, and things I have experienced with horses. After thinking about this a lot, I thought of a question.

Is there anything a horse cannot be trained to do? (This question, of course, takes into account physical capabilities.)
I don't mean "Can you train a horse to stand on its head," I'm asking if there's anything that when a horse outright refuses to do, will remain refused for the entirety of its life. Like a horse that has never been able to cross a river its whole life being taught to cross a river, or a horse that refused to ever jump learning to accept jumping. (Assuming they don't have some physical reason for not wanting to, and its just a mental block.)
I ask because I've heard both "Oh she can NEVER cross water!" from trainers and different trainers say "We've been working on crossing water (over the course of many years,) but she still refuses to," and I really can't figure out what is "right." Is it right to just give up and accept that your horse won't? Or is it possible that every horse can be trained to do anything they can physically do given time and consistency?

No particular reason for this question, just wondering on opinions.
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post #2 of 15 Old 07-17-2010, 12:57 AM
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Just a load of excuses :) Except for conformational limitations, I doubt there is anything within reason that a horse cannot do.

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post #3 of 15 Old 07-17-2010, 01:26 AM
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With the right approach anything can be taught... or re-taught for that matter

A longtime trainer once told me "The horse is a blackboard, you can make marks, erase marks, add to marks, change marks however and whenever you please".

We currently have a mare who a previous home said "You can do anything with her, but you'll never get her to jump"... guess what... she's jumping just dandy up to about 2'6"

I've had many horses who didn't "like men"... all of them got over it.
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post #4 of 15 Old 07-17-2010, 01:29 AM
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It is a good question and one that pulls at the heart of "choice" and if a horse makes one.

I believe that there are horses or bloodlines that are predisposed to a certain activity.
In other words they have a born talent in a certain area because of their mind or conformation or breed to some degree.

But horses are very adaptable and want to get along.

I think to understand the idea picture a person that really likes gardening but is required to do carpentry instead.

He may learn to like what he does or he may not.
This may effect the quality of the work that he does.

When you touch the joy or passion you always get a better result even if the conformation is not there.

"The greatest strength is gentleness."
- Iroquois Proverb
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post #5 of 15 Old 07-17-2010, 07:56 AM
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Interesting question, and I think it can be taken in several different ways as shown above.

I worked with a classical dressage trainer for a while, studying movement, self carriage, and lameness. She was always a firm believer that the western saddle itself was not a beneficial thing to the horse due to its limitations on the back. However, one day I had her check on my 2 yr old Blue Valentine filly. Almost immediately, she said "you are going to have to get this baby on some cows." It was my original plan for the filly anyway. It is true, at 4 yrs old now, that baby will do anything I ask her, but she absolutely loves cows. She will do what I ask, but there is definitely one thing she will pour her heart into more than another.

I am the type that always wants to prove someone wrong when they say it can't be done. Most of the horses in my barn came with labels of what they won't do, and they will all do any of it and more now. One mare was at a professional dressage barn where they said she would never be rideable and definitely never be safe around kids. Last season, she was winning open classes with a 12 yr old girl on her back against adults. The girl wanted to learn to jump, and there was nothing physically limiting the mare, I had just never jumped her, so we started training her. She never put much effort into it but did what we asked. When the show season ended, we gave her some time off from jumping and just recently started again. She is a different horse, moving steadily and eagerly towards every fence.

I personally think its different to say "this horse doesn't have the passion for something" or "this horse will never cross an obstacle". I see that many of the limitations that horses have are given to them by people who assume that if they can't do it, it can't be done. Its like having a child and not having faith in them. I work with a lot of children, and I can tell you that the number of parents that do something for their children the first time they say they can't is astounding. I had several of these kids at camp last week and every time they said they couldn't, I said "sure ya can" and eventually they did get it. However, their skills were definitely lower than the kids that thought they could do anything if they tried hard enough.

I have plenty of horses that don't like water but will cross it, and some that would dive into every pond if I let them. I see water crossing for some horses very similar to how I see doing my house chores. It is something that may not be pleasant, but part of my life and I will do it, it doesn't hurt me. I know the horse thinks it may be a horse eating puddle, but with the correct preperation and encouragement, any "non water crossing" horse I've had has learned to cross water.

I think that when people say "they can't", they are basically saying "I can't figure out why the horse doesn't want to and I can't fix that fear".
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post #6 of 15 Old 07-17-2010, 10:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheLastUnicorn View Post
With the right approach anything can be taught... or re-taught for that matter

A longtime trainer once told me "The horse is a blackboard, you can make marks, erase marks, add to marks, change marks however and whenever you please".

.
As long as you don't use a permanent marker ;)

May we all see horses through the eyes of children
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post #7 of 15 Old 07-17-2010, 11:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marecare View Post
It is a good question and one that pulls at the heart of "choice" and if a horse makes one.

I believe that there are horses or bloodlines that are predisposed to a certain activity.
In other words they have a born talent in a certain area because of their mind or conformation or breed to some degree.

But horses are very adaptable and want to get along.

I think to understand the idea picture a person that really likes gardening but is required to do carpentry instead.

He may learn to like what he does or he may not.
This may effect the quality of the work that he does.

When you touch the joy or passion you always get a better result even if the conformation is not there.
True enough... I thought the question wasn't really will you ever get a horse to excel at what it doesn't like to do... but that can you GET the horse to do what it doesn't like to do - or do what it has feared doing in the past.

So yes, I suppose it does depend on how you take the question.

I'm a firm believer that just about every horse has a "thing" they're good at and they LOVE to do. They were pretty much all born athletes (with the exception of those really unfortunately conformed horses), but that doesn't mean they're GOOD at everything. I think it's our job to try our best to fit that horse into the thing they love doing, we end up with better relationships with them if we do.
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post #8 of 15 Old 07-17-2010, 11:36 AM
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Though I am really new to owning a horse I have been working with horses out on the stations near where I live, mustering and pleasure riding etc. I am not a jumper, I haven't had the opportunity and I haven't been on a horse that wasn't placid until I met Nala, my beautiful Appaloosa.

When I met her she was the friskiest horse I had ever met, she shied from me, reared, bit, kicked but I showed her what love was like and what it is like to love something so much you never give up on it no matter how hard it gets (:

Nala is now the sweetest horse that I have been around because I loved her, she now loves me back.

I think that no matter a horses fear, he can always over come it with someone there to support him.
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post #9 of 15 Old 07-17-2010, 02:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlitterBug View Post
I personally think its different to say "this horse doesn't have the passion for something" or "this horse will never cross an obstacle". I see that many of the limitations that horses have are given to them by people who assume that if they can't do it, it can't be done. Its like having a child and not having faith in them.
This! <3



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post #10 of 15 Old 07-17-2010, 04:52 PM
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I believe that any horse can do anything-- with enough patience. I recently posted this (Going Over Water- So Proud!!!) on another section of the forum, and I think it demonstrates that theory well.

...you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. ... Explore. Dream. Discover.”
–Mark Twain
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