Does my horse need to respect me as its leader?
 
 

       The Horse Forum > Training Horses > Natural Horsemanship

Does my horse need to respect me as its leader?

This is a discussion on Does my horse need to respect me as its leader? within the Natural Horsemanship forums, part of the Training Horses category
  • What should i do with a horse that dosen't have respect for me
  • Horse and leadership concept

 
LinkBack Thread Tools
    07-06-2011, 09:15 PM
  #1
Foal
Does my horse need to respect me as its leader?

Hi

I am new to the forum and its been great to catch up on so many fantastic posts. I breed, train and start ponies for kids. I am studying a master of animal science with a major in equine behaviour. I will be doing a research project into NHS methods, equine cognition and the social organisation of horse herds. I've been thinking about the issue of respect and leadership as used in NHS methods for a while and am interested in finding out the view of other NHS trainers/users.

These are my current thoughts on these two terms and would love to hear what other people think.



Respect and leader have been much used by NHS clinicians practitioners in the past twenty years, so much so that they are now commonplace and we use them to describe our horses and their interactions with us on a daily basis. So a horse that won't load onto a trailer is either not showing you enough respect and is usurping your rightul role as the leader in the relationship, or doesn't have enough faith to trust you as a leader.


But do horses really see us as leaders in their lives and do they even have a concept of respect or leadership towards humans anyway? Just because they may follow the dominant mare to water, does that mean they can translate that to their interactions with us and the myriad of things we expect them to do?


Can we really be sure that a horse can apply the body language, sights, smells etc of horse to horse relationships (which they are evolved to understand and respond to), to two legged humans who routinely expose them to situations that no other horse would ever expect of another horse (having a predator sit calmly on their backs).


By using such terms, are we in effect, in the name of being more "natural" or more humane, actually loading up our horses with anthropomorphic judgements that can still blame the horse when it doesn't do what we want?


Do horse herds even have leaders? Or simply organise themselves around a roughly linear dominant hierarchy in which contests are over resources, and if so, other than food or rest, what resources would humans have that a "dominant, disrespectful" horse could be trying to get from a human?


What are the qualities of the horses that are at the apex of a dominance hierarchy and as humans, can we mimic them in such a way that this is the reason our horses comply with cues, rather than for some other reason? Do subordinate horses "respect" the more dominant ones, (as in assess and admire their "leadership" qualities) or do they simply move out of the way to avoid getting injured (negative reinforcement)? Do they look up to and admire the dominant horse? Are horses at the apex of a dominance hierarchy even the leaders of the herd?



The term "respect" implies a choice, that the horse is choosing to do or not do what we ask because it has a belief about our worthiness to make decisions for it. Respect also implies that the horse has the mental abilities to hold such a belief by a careful consideration of the options, and that horses which are not respectful have arrogantly chosen not to submit to our (obviously) resonable demands.


In the human world, leaders are those who we consciously choose; through the ballot box (or sometimes coercion), usually consensus (eg our boss) to make decisions on our behalf. We make determinations on a whole host of factors as to whether we will comply with the decisions made by our leaders or not. We can consciously modify our thoughts, memories and to an extent our emotions when assessing the leadership qualities of another person. In some contexts we will trust a leader even when it appears their decision will lead us into harm.


But is this what is going on in a horse's head when it follows you into a trailer even though it is obviously anxious about it? Or have you successfully trained the horse to move forward from poll pressure from the leadrope (via negative reinforcement) so completely that the horse continues to respond to that stimulus despite the evironment (the scary trailer) providing quite a strong counter pressure? Is the horse respectful or simply well trained?



What about the new horse you've just bought that obviously doesn't have any past experience of you personally so hasn't had time to "bond", is obviously anxious about your trailer which it has never been on, yet still walks forward from lead pressure and onto the trailer? Is it respecting your leadership at this point or has it been well trained and loaded onto enough trailers to generalise about them and therefore load onto yours?


Still thinking through these issues, very keen to hear others' opinions on this.
     
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
    07-06-2011, 09:18 PM
  #2
Foal
Im sorry to say I did not read the whole thing. But your title was "does my horse need to respect me" nad the answer is YES YES YES! ITS VERY IMPORTANT FOR THE HORSE TO FEEL RESPECT FROM YOU OR IT WILL TAKE ADVANTAGE AND NOT LISTEN TO YOU.
     
    07-06-2011, 10:31 PM
  #3
Green Broke
Ilovemyquarter, you should have read.
As for the post. I kind of believe both. I'm not sure that a horse can translate our body language (not all of it, of course some of it) as it would another horse, but I don't think it's always about that. I think most of the time it's just how we present ourselves. If I view myself as dominant and a leader, they're going to feel that (IMO atleast).
I also think it's a matter of both respect, and training. I can have the best trained horse there is, but it won't garuntee it'll listen to me, especially if it isn't respectful. If it isn't respectful of my authority, it won't do what it doesn't want to do. But if I have the most respectful horse with less training, it should respect me enough to do what I ask. There isn't a horse out there I know of that is either of these. There will always be -something- to make them guess. But all horses are different, and they all fall under a different rank. A timid horse will respect you far easier than a highly dominant horse, in my experience.
But overall, I think it's everything mixed together, because a horse with only one trait that's high won't be a very good horse, IMO. I hope that made sense...I'm tired ;; I likedthe post though, very interesting.
Posted via Mobile Device
     
    07-06-2011, 11:05 PM
  #4
Super Moderator
I didn't read the whole post. Just a bit long for my lazy self.

I agree, though, that to me, the use of the word "respect" is inherently open to problems of anthropomorphziing. To say respect means somethin akin to admire, and want to emulate. It does imply a choice, and thus the opposite of this desirable quality with a horse would seem to be that the horse ignores the choice to repect his leader and actively disdains, scorns, dislike , disparages and is willfully being "bad".

I don't think horses respect people. There are people whose way of being with horses just obviously makes the hrose feel good, and the horse is calm and happy with such people. That makes me think that what the horse is looking for is stability and safety. The person that can make the horse feel this way, will have his "respect". Which, I would better term his confidence or his "get -along".

A lot of what the OP talked about, like getting on the trailer, I think a lot goes back to the training, so I feel that if the horse has never had a bad experience on a trailer or with someone leading him into a trailer, he will probably load well for anyone. If there are doubtful feelings in the hrose, then the handler getting him to focus more on "getting along" with the handler's directions will get the horse to focus less on his fear and more and his inate desire to cooperate.

I havne't quite thought the wording through, but I have always felt that the use of "respect" was not quite right. And when people say , my horse was acting "bratty", that's a nother one I feel just doesn't make sense.

Nuf for now.
     
    07-07-2011, 01:02 AM
  #5
Weanling
Equines in my opinion have a superior society than we as human beings have constructed through all of our analyzing and trying to construct a "theory" as to why everything is and what it means in relation to the rest of the universe. To a horse it is all about the exact moment in which they exist. Their dominance is purely for the simple benefit of the survival of the species. Our dominance is more for the too often abuse of power. A horse does not abuse it's power, it asserts it, and the other horses either challenge it or submit to it...but from the horses I have known...the leaders in the horse world show compassion, confidence, equality and judicial balance far more ineptly than human beings. So here comes people in the equation and I too have often wondered what my equine companions must think about me. But that thought is almost unfathomable as to my knowledge a horse does not think in "words" as we do, their thoughts are more instinctual drives to survive and they are constantly just living in each moment filtering in the energy around them and deciding what is in the best interest of survival. If I approach a horse and it senses I feel more confident than it and I prove to the horse I am fearless no matter what antics it throws at me I will "win" it's "respect"...though the horse must actually have no "word" to describe it, the horse, just has respect....it just is...and although to the human mind this is such an insane and almost archaic way of existing, I find it to be a more peaceful and balanced way of existence. They just are and just because they are different than us, we are both still just animals. Is the butterfly better than the grasshopper because it has colorful wings and can fly. No each serves a purpose. And the horses purpose is to be a horse. And man's purpose I guess it to run around trying to humanize all other life forms because it is utterly impossible for man to just be...and to enjoy the wonderful peace of just being alive in the moment.
     
    07-07-2011, 04:01 AM
  #6
Doe
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by corymbia    
Hi

I am new to the forum and its been great to catch up on so many fantastic posts. I breed, train and start ponies for kids. I am studying a master of animal science with a major in equine behaviour. I will be doing a research project into NHS methods, equine cognition and the social organisation of horse herds. I've been thinking about the issue of respect and leadership as used in NHS methods for a while and am interested in finding out the view of other NHS trainers/users.

These are my current thoughts on these two terms and would love to hear what other people think.

I have added my responses in blue

Respect and leader have been much used by NHS clinicians practitioners in the past twenty years, so much so that they are now commonplace and we use them to describe our horses and their interactions with us on a daily basis. So a horse that won't load onto a trailer is either not showing you enough respect and is usurping your rightul role as the leader in the relationship, or doesn't have enough faith to trust you as a leader.

That would be the assumption that NH trainers tend to make, though not all
But do horses really see us as leaders in their lives and do they even have a concept of respect or leadership towards humans anyway? Just because they may follow the dominant mare to water, does that mean they can translate that to their interactions with us and the myriad of things we expect them to do?
No, personally I've always said we are not a horse, the horse does not see us as a horse, and we will never be seen in the same way. However that does not mean we cannot lead them, though that leadership should take different forms dependent upon the needs of th horse. That way they will choose to follow for their own advantages. Commonly within NH however the approach is single and claiming to represent the mare or stallion. I think it is also important to understand the impact of domestication on our interactions which is often neglected in these studies.

Can we really be sure that a horse can apply the body language, sights, smells etc of horse to horse relationships (which they are evolved to understand and respond to), to two legged humans who routinely expose them to situations that no other horse would ever expect of another horse (having a predator sit calmly on their backs).

Yes and no. Horses read intention. Even within their own communication similar gestures can have different meanings dependent upon the context. For example ears back can mean many things not just aggression. Therefore if we are clear in our body and authentic then they learn almost immediately, becuause they can translate easily our crude attempts. This is also demonstrated by failures to communicate when the human is saying several things without realising it, or is relying on vocal heavily and the body is contradicting the voice. Even then you see the horse confused and trying to yield to several commands but not knowing which is wanted. This is why conditioning then becomes the method. Ie the horse then stops listening, and simply acts based on condition to the cue. Unfortunately this causes dullness and a loss of overall communication. I was watching two well known trainers on tv last night and this was apparent. They have totally forgotten to communicate with the horse now and are simply looking to conditional reaction to the cue. I am not saying that is wrong, but it is not the same as language or real two way communication. Each command has to be conditioned as does any change. When you rely on body language and open the door to two way communication then sentences can be formed on the fly, and conversation can take place which allows you to bring news things in without conditioning. That is what people see as 'magic'

By using such terms, are we in effect, in the name of being more "natural" or more humane, actually loading up our horses with anthropomorphic judgements that can still blame the horse when it doesn't do what we want?
Absolutely. Also they are neither more natural than other methods, nor are they necessarily more humane. They are still based on physical and mental pressure, with as much as needed to 'get the job done' as is the catchphrase of a certain trainer. It is all also based on negative reinforcement still.


Do horse herds even have leaders? Or simply organise themselves around a roughly linear dominant hierarchy in which contests are over resources, and if so, other than food or rest, what resources would humans have that a "dominant, disrespectful" horse could be trying to get from a human?
Firstly you have to define 'herd'. There is a massive difference between a truly wild herd and that of domesticated animals. Domesticated horses are often kept in unnatural groups, mares only, geldings only (and geldings don't even exist in the wild) so natural hierarchical function is immeasurable in this situation. In a large mixed domestic herd (say 50-100 head) human pictures of hierarchy have been massively oversimplified and bear little resemblance to actual interactions within the herd IMO.

What are the qualities of the horses that are at the apex of a dominance hierarchy and as humans, can we mimic them in such a way that this is the reason our horses comply with cues, rather than for some other reason? Do subordinate horses "respect" the more dominant ones, (as in assess and admire their "leadership" qualities) or do they simply move out of the way to avoid getting injured (negative reinforcement)? Do they look up to and admire the dominant horse? Are horses at the apex of a dominance hierarchy even the leaders of the herd?

Again it depends on the definition of 'leader'. As I said it's been massively oversimplified. There is no simple 'dominant mare' that moves the herd and decides when they eat etc. There are however certain dominant characters, there are also non-dominant but leading characters in other scenarios. Again though you also have to allow for distortions caused by domestication - such as actions unnatural to the horse but often stress based.

The term "respect" implies a choice, that the horse is choosing to do or not do what we ask because it has a belief about our worthiness to make decisions for it. Respect also implies that the horse has the mental abilities to hold such a belief by a careful consideration of the options, and that horses which are not respectful have arrogantly chosen not to submit to our (obviously) resonable demands.


In the human world, leaders are those who we consciously choose; through the ballot box (or sometimes coercion), usually consensus (eg our boss) to make decisions on our behalf. We make determinations on a whole host of factors as to whether we will comply with the decisions made by our leaders or not. We can consciously modify our thoughts, memories and to an extent our emotions when assessing the leadership qualities of another person. In some contexts we will trust a leader even when it appears their decision will lead us into harm.


But is this what is going on in a horse's head when it follows you into a trailer even though it is obviously anxious about it? Or have you successfully trained the horse to move forward from poll pressure from the leadrope (via negative reinforcement) so completely that the horse continues to respond to that stimulus despite the evironment (the scary trailer) providing quite a strong counter pressure? Is the horse respectful or simply well trained?

In that particular context it's largely the lead rope conditioning. The trainer has effectively put it so that to not go forward has now become more concerning than to go forwards via a number of elements of the training. It is not a trust based following despite how it might be presented to sell a method.

What about the new horse you've just bought that obviously doesn't have any past experience of you personally so hasn't had time to "bond", is obviously anxious about your trailer which it has never been on, yet still walks forward from lead pressure and onto the trailer? Is it respecting your leadership at this point or has it been well trained and loaded onto enough trailers to generalise about them and therefore load onto yours?

nothing to do with leadership in that context.

Still thinking through these issues, very keen to hear others' opinions on this.
These are my opinions and in answering I am referencing NH to mean any form of well known training method based on negative reinforcement, such as Clinton Anderson, Parelli, Chris Cox etc. Incidentally great questions.
     
    07-07-2011, 07:29 AM
  #7
Showing
Quote:
Originally Posted by corymbia    
But do horses really see us as leaders in their lives and do they even have a concept of respect or leadership towards humans anyway? Just because they may follow the dominant mare to water, does that mean they can translate that to their interactions with us and the myriad of things we expect them to do?
They do (although I have to add some will keep testing your "leadership" now and then). The good example would be riding new obstacle on trail. When I meet something new on trail horse is very unsure about it still passes/crosses it when asked (even though sometime it takes us some time). Because she trusts me as a leader. Otherwise the horse would just refuse/run away.
     
    07-09-2011, 01:33 AM
  #8
Foal
Thanks for the replies, esp Doe, your comments are awesome. I completely agree that the social dynamics of wild or free ranging horse herds are far more complex than often portrayed in some NHS methodologies- esp those that rely a lot on the "alpha mare" effect. In fact, the reading I've so far done in wild horse studies (and still got a lot more to read!) has highlighted that social relationships between horses vary quite widely between breeds, level of human management and characteristics of the environment in which the herds live and although some behaviours are common, many of the ways that horses choose to organise themselves when allowed to don't correlate with how they interact towards us.

I guess my overaching question, is why the concept of leadership and respect is so felt to be such a necessity in interpreting horse/human interactions- it seems to me to say more about us, and our need for hierachical structures, than about how horses see us.

Given that, other than sex and play, horses don't mount other horses and when they do, they don't stay on each others' backs for more than a minute at the most, is it really true that they translate any "respect" they have for us on the ground to when we are on their backs? The fact that even quiet, soft and "respectful" horses on the ground may still revert to extreme anti-predator behaviours (bucking) when ridden suggests that there may be no "ethological" (innate horse behaviour) relevance to being ridden and consequently it is unlikely "leadership" (in an ethological sense) can account for what happens when a horse that is initially reluctant to go somewhere, still complies with a negative reinforcement cue (leg pressure and its removal for example).
     
    07-09-2011, 02:02 AM
  #9
Yearling
You make a lot of assumptions to further your thoughts, at times.

I guess my overaching question, is why the concept of leadership and respect is so felt to be such a necessity in interpreting horse/human interactions- it seems to me to say more about us, and our need for hierachical structures, than about how horses see us.

Incorrect. Not to be mean, but you must not have trained that many horses if you don't think leadership and respect play a role in horses. Have you ever been around a horse that has a scared owner? The horses become neurotic, aggressive, and pushy. They will take a leadership role if the human will not.

That alone proves that it is not our need to place these animals' roles in our brains, but that these animals have very specific relationships in where one horse is the leader, and the other is not. This does not mean the dominant horse is the alpha over all the horses, just that is a leader over one horse, at one specific time.

Have you ever worked with stallions? They too, will let you know that if you want to play 'friends' that they have no interest in blurry leadership lines. You must be the alpha, or you are not. Period. And if you've ever been around a stallion that thinks he's the alpha, that is a very, very dangerous thing.

I like natural horsemanship up until the point where people try to argue that the horses are like equals. Two things happen at that point--they are delusional about their horse relationship, or they have a one way ticket to the ER when they get hurt.

Respect is something different. Respect is when you can walk out into a pasture with food, and not have horses fighting amongst you. My colt and two geldings will not kick, bite, rear, etc. when I am out with them, with no lead ropes/etc. They ALL respect that I am dominant over them and will kick their little butts if they act stupid. ;)

The fact that even quiet, soft and "respectful" horses on the ground may still revert to extreme anti-predator behaviours (bucking) when ridden suggests that there may be no "ethological" (innate horse behaviour) relevance to being ridden

Really, it suggests that? The problem with that conclusion is that horses buck for MANY reasons, and you really might not know which one of those reasons is the cause. Pain is a big one; too much energy; too much sugar; ill fitting tack; poor rider; spooking. The problem with that conclusion is that there are far too many variables to bucking to even begin to say that. Respectful horses on the ground, without any of the problems mentioned above, are respectful horses under saddle. That's why SO MANY natural horsemanship programs start with a lot of groundwork for horses that have problems under saddle.

Can we really be sure that a horse can apply the body language, sights, smells etc of horse to horse relationships (which they are evolved to understand and respond to), to two legged humans who routinely expose them to situations that no other horse would ever expect of another horse (having a predator sit calmly on their backs).

Why not? Have you ever round penned a horse for the first time in its life? You'd be surprised at how much body language a horse reads. Put a scared, slouched shouldered person in with a lazy horse and it won't canter no matter how much that person tries. Put a dominant figure in there, and you'll watch that horse fly--without being hit by the whip, of course. I've seen these things happen.

Being dominant and submissive are the way the animal kingdom works. By earning respect and being a leader, it doesn't mean you have to be aggressive and mean--although horses can and WILL respect those things. It typically just means you have to outsmart them, and prove that you are safe to be around.
     
    07-09-2011, 10:01 AM
  #10
Weanling
From what I have learned about horses it boils down to one tiny trait that a dominant "leader" has that usurps any other horses role...that is the ability to make the other "lower" horses move their feet away from the approaching "leader". Its all about who moves who. It has nothing to do with mounting...it's about movement. That is why the "join up" excercises put a horse in a submissive state towards the trainer. Movement.
     

Quick Reply
Please help keep the Horse Forum enjoyable by reporting rude posts.
Message:
Options

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the The Horse Forum forums, you must first register.

Already have a Horse Forum account?
Members are allowed only one account per person at the Horse Forum, so if you've made an account here in the past you'll need to continue using that account. Please do not create a new account or you may lose access to the Horse Forum. If you need help recovering your existing account, please Contact Us. We'll be glad to help!

New to the Horse Forum?
Please choose a username you will be satisfied with using for the duration of your membership at the Horse Forum. We do not change members' usernames upon request because that would make it difficult for everyone to keep track of who is who on the forum. For that reason, please do not incorporate your horse's name into your username so that you are not stuck with a username related to a horse you may no longer have some day, or use any other username you may no longer identify with or care for in the future.

User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.
Password:
Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.
Email Address:

Log-in

Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.


Old Thread Warning
This thread is more than 90 days old. When a thread is this old, it is often better to start a new thread rather than post to it. However, If you feel you have something of value to add to this particular thread, you can do so by checking the box below before submitting your post.

Thread Tools

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
New horse has no respect for my space! LauraLA Horse Training 17 09-09-2013 03:34 PM
Best methods for teaching a horse respect Whisper22 Horse Training 21 04-02-2011 02:36 PM
I'm the leader - right? monarchsjoy Horse Training 2 08-14-2010 08:07 PM
Horse leads well at home, but has no respect in new places OrangeCat Horse Training 4 06-11-2010 12:56 PM
Is your horse a leader or a follower giddyupgo Horse Training 28 05-08-2009 10:07 AM



All times are GMT -4. The time now is 04:10 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Search Engine Friendly URLs by vBSEO 3.6.0