Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Broken Hill, NSW, Australia
• Horses: 0
Northern said ... the human has to be the leader. Horses have no 50/50 relationships; they're always looking for a worthy leader; he's not optimally happy unless he understands whether you're the leader or he is. For the horse to refuse you in front of your friends is truly deleterious for the relationship, because he's alpha there, & he never should be. It's 51%/49% partnership, not master/slave, but it must be that ratio, or you'll regret it.
Pressure-release is what horses do with each other; they understand it, so it's not bad. Yet there's another factor to good horsemanship, which is "feel". People want to leave pressure-release & go on only "feel", but you need both...
I appreciate what you are saying and agree the human has to have the final say in situations where it's important. I spent a lot of time discussing this with the others in the FT forum before I started the program- their advice was that if it's not an important thing it is ok to accept the horse saying no - it doesn't escalate into anything. I'm thinking that it might have something to do with the strength of the person's intent and the horses ability to gauge that strength of intent. When I ask my boy to back up away from a gate or come away from a vehicle or something, I know it is important he do so, and I think perhaps he reads that importance and does as I ask - accepts my leadership so to speak. But when I know it is not really an important thing - like showing my friend how he would back up (basically showing off) I suspect he can also read that it isn't really an important thing, and so decided he didn't really have to back up.
I'm not sure I understand what 'feel' is, but it might explain what went wrong after I bought him. Before I bought him I spent three weeks hanging out with him every day, and when I was grooming or leading or whatever I was very gentle and careful to make sure I had his permission for everything and that he was comfortable with everything I asked, and he was comfortable and much more willing and relaxed with me than anyone else. That gentleness is my natural style of interacting with pretty much everything, and it usually works, but it can be slow. When I bought him I began 'being the boss' - a gentle one but still the boss - because that is what everyone was telling me I needed to be to establish a good relationship with him. So I insisted with gradually increasing pressure until he did what I asked. It seemed to work for them and their horses. LOL, I forgot to notice it hadn't worked for them with him... Anyway, I wasn't all that comfortable being the boss, and I think that did two things - I lost that soft 'asking for permission' which had made him feel safe with me and trust me in the first place, and he would have been able to read my discomfort so I probably looked weak as well. So then I just looked like a weak version of everyone else he didn't like.
The FT approach is much more in line with my natural style, so there is no longer that gap between interaction style and the kind of person I am. It has given me the confidence and patience to ask for what I want, to not be bothered if he says no - to either accept it if it wasn't important or to calmly say 'no, this is important, I have to insist'. Because I don't see a 'no' as a leadership challenge he doesn't turn it into one - does that make sense? Being calm and unruffled seem to be very important to working with him - I guess with any horse but particularly with him - any hint of nerves or aggression or frustration and he responds with the same. FT somehow gives me that strength. The person who was training him for me said he was by far the most stubborn and determined horse he had ever met, and that he was the slowest to trust of any he had worked with. I guess this is why the very slow calm approach FT gives works so well with him.
Thank you for the discussion, it has been very interesting.