Be Nice to your horse it is bigger than you.
Be Nice to your Horse - it’s bigger than you.
In my adult life I have enjoyed four sports namely rowing, flying, scuba diving and horse riding. In rowing the harsh exercise is very good for the physique but is boring. There is minimal risk of injury when rowing except perhaps from a heart attack. Flying a small plane is not that dangerous and probably presents less risk than driving a fast car. Diving is fraught with dangers but Great White sharks aren’t the big risk. If the diver has been properly trained then the two big dangers of shortage of air or hypothermia can be avoided. I used to think it was a very dangerous sport until one day in 1975 I discovered horse riding.
Playing with horses is a whole different deal. The horse rider sits upon 500 kilos plus of an amazingly powerful spook mobile fitted with an accelerator and brakes, neither of which can be guaranteed to work even when the rider presses the correct buttons. The steering wheel doesn’t always work either. Surprisingly the rider is not glued, screwed, clipped, tied, slotted, wedged or in any other way firmly attached to the hunk of flesh and muscle writhing between the rider’s legs. The genius Newton foresaw centuries ago that if the horse was really motoring and it stopped or turned with or without giving the right signals, the rider, a separate entity, would proceed at the same speed in the original direction. In which case Newton pointed out that the rider would hit the ground with force relative to the speed at which the horse had been galloping. The faster the horse was going, the greater the force of impact. The result would be very much of a lottery Everything in the human body when subjected to overwhelming force will break, it is just that some bits break more readily than others.
The human body is a magnificent feat of biological engineering although in fact it is nothing more than a walking, talking container in which the brain resides. It has a pump to make the blood flow round the brain; lungs to pump air to the brain and a built in waste disposal system. The functionality of the Brain is controlled by the Mind, itself an amazing computer which doesn’t need Intel chips or Microsoft software nor even mains electricity. Luckily for many of us the Brain is not controlled from the heart nor any obvious source. If the Brain doesn’t like the sport of horse riding then, unless the rider is Arnold Schwarzenegger, it generates fear. We humans usually stop doing what the brain doesn’t like us to do. But this all singing, all dancing, all moving, marvel of a human body has a few weaknesses The rules are that if the Brain doesn’t work properly then various bits and pieces of the body don’t work at all. That doesn’t mean the body will die. It could mean that the Brain lives on but it shuts down certain activities by the body which can be both inconvenient and unpleasant for the Mind. So be advised, the Brain doesn’t like its cage rattled and it gets very spiteful if you do not protect the skull in which it dwells The nervous system, arguably the tentacles of the brain, is also very touchy about being interfered with. It too can act mean. Now of course you can say : so what? Well, if that demon Brain wants its revenge then it will shut off some key functions which most humans seem to enjoy such as: walking, talking, seeing, hearing, touching, feeling, eating, and sex.
Motto: don’t bang your head.
The Brain will inevitably switch itself off but with luck it can be made to work for 85 years, maybe even more if treated carefully. If it really wants to be nasty to its tenant (the Mind) the Brain will keep ticking and lock the Mind up in a prison of flesh blood and bone. So if you don’t ever want to wind up laying flat on your back, wearing smelly wet knickers, dribbling and unable to feel anything then please think more cautiously about the serious risks you take whenever you get within six feet of a horse.
Horse riding is all about enjoying the company of a 500 kilo, four legged, hairy beast which happens to be strong enough not only to carry its playmate and but to run and even fly through the air whilst bearing the load. The horse has the mouth of a crocodile with the grip of a vice. Many are fitted with shoes of steel which can strike out and break with ease any bone in a human’s body. The horse can react instinctively in a microsecond to any threat and will take off at 20 mph in any open direction at the twinkling of an eye. It hears its rider from hundreds of yards away and might well have been warned by vibrations through the ground from footfalls It can smell and identify the odours the human emits however faint. This creature has lived amidst mankind for thousands of years and knows its foe inside out.. If it wants to harm the human, it knows exactly how to do it and it will remember for decades everything you or your kind have done to it. What’s more for nutrition it doesn’t need a can opener, a cooker or a fridge - it eats grass and therefore doesn’t compete with its major predator for food. That was a clever move by the species. Be sure that in a ring, the bare knuckle boxer would lose any fight with a horse.
We puny weaklings are no match for the horse in strength or power. and we should take care to protect the vulnerable parts of our body. Riders should use to the maximum benefit the large brain we were born with, as it is our only defence against this magnificent creature. We should also be thankful that the horse was given a hoof instead of a hand and that whilst it can “whinny” it cannot spell the word in any language.
The riding hat won’t save every head; the protective jacket won’t protect every bone; the gloves won’t save the hands, the knee pads wont save the knee joints and the boots won’t save the feet.. When riding we have to leave the neck completely unprotected together with the wrists, fingers and the ankles. Let us hope the horse doesn‘t turn nasty or we humans are doomed.
To summarize: the equine has got humans well and truly sussed. Once it had emotionally blackmailed us carnivores into not developing a taste for horse meat then it knew it had won the battle for long term survival on a world where mankind reigns supreme. When horses chose to become the servants of humans, they were and they remain smart cookies. They tolerate humans for their own survival. So, riders when next you mount your steed, I suggest you be nice to it. It has the innate capability to seriously hurt you., if it wanted to.
Personally, even when dressed like a riot policeman, before I mount up I always give my mare a biscuit, just to keep her thinking she needs me. How do you keep on the right side of your horse?
Have you practiced any of the so-called Natural Horsemanship groundwork routines? For me, they opened connections/communication I never thought possible. I was always (or tried to be) the Brain, and the horse was the Physique. With groundwork, you allow--- insist, in fact--- that the horse do some thinking, and you must seriously take up body language; it's really fun.
Keeping on the "right side" no longer makes sense.
For some reason, I share a deeper bond with my current horse than I have with any other. In a sense we both came to each other at exactly the right moments. He was miserable when I got him, stuck in a box stall getting ridden once or twice a week, I had just made the decision to put my mare down due to complications during colic surgery. He gave me the talented, hard working horse I was looking for, and I gave him a job. Willie has the best work ethic of any horse I've ever met. Even after two years off due to injury, I swear he could trot right into a dressage arena and win it, especially after working him the other day. He's no different than the day he tore two tendons.
For Willie, at least, all I have to do is give him the attention he deserves and give him a job. When he has that, he's happy, and I've come to completely trust him.
i absolutely loved reading your post :)
My mare has got me taped OK - we are going down the road of building a vocabulary which we both understand. She has her little routines which I am honour bound to follow. She plays little games not just with me but with other like minded souls & Lord forbid that I am ever late.
My Girl is benign and I trust her completely on the ground. On one particular occasion I have reason to be thankful that she is, otherwise I would not be here now.
But the idea behind this thread is to try to draw to the attention of others just how powerful a horse is and just how formidable they could be if they chose to be.
Thank you for your insight, Barry.
I find that your posts are well-written and observative; intended for a good purpose.
The problem with people is that they do forget that the horse is a horse. And then some people overthink that, which is a horse.
Often, I find myself wondering along which line do I stray? Indeed, it is a happy partnership, but what if one party does not enjoy these activities?
Upon entering the herd, they notice, but continue to graze. When I walk up, their excitement levels rise (save for the old mare, her owner has not been to visit in over two months); and then fall once again. I have been accepted to dwell within the herd for as long as I please. They can all be led with little encouragement, and the fillies can be driven to play.
It is never that the danger is absent; I choose to acknowledge and overcome it. They all know that I can be come big and fearsome, if I so choose. However, if their manners are there, as are mine. Should they choose to act up, they can run. And continue to run at my will.
Is there true domination of a horse? Or do we achieve their gentle submisson by simply indulging their "good" behaviour and establishing some form of trust/respect?
I try and stay on their good side. If someone jailed me and made me work for them even if it was for my own survival I would hope they would be a benevolent ruler. I try my best to make sure they are happy 1. Freedom to move 24/7. 2. Clean water/food and living area. 3. Lots of treats 4. Vacations. 3. Well fitting tack and as little aids as possible bit/spurs/crops. Not that I don't use reinforcement but like training a dog if treats and encouragement don't work one firm tug is better than constant yanking. I also hopefully choose the right horse/personality for the job I am asking him/her to do.
Well written and enjoyable to read. Interesting idea too. I often ask people who try to overpower their horses (e.g. to get them to lead into a trailer, or when in the saddle to get the horse to slow down or stop): How much do you weigh? After the initial shock of being asked such a personal question, they usually reply with anything in the range of 100-300 pounds.
To which I ask my second question: If you were to play tug-of-war with someone who weighs 1000 pounds would you expect to win? No? So don't attempt to overpower your horse. We can never match their strength but with correct training we can certainly establish a partnership that ensures you reach all the goals you set for yourself and your furry four legged friend.
One day, I turned out an arab gelding with my mini gelding. The arab was over 15 hh, the mini under 10 hh. The arab was 17 yrs old, been there, done that. The mini was 2 yrs old and hadn't been anywhere. I checked on them shortly after turning out and found the arab up to his head in the pond with the mini circling the outside with his ears back and teeth bared. Every time the arab would try to come out, the mini would chase him back in. I had to take the mini out of the paddock so the arab would come out of the pond.
Moral of the story: The horse is only as big as you let it think it is.
We have a dog that no one can figure out what he is. We think some kind of jack russel x cattle dog. He went through 8 different homes in 6 months. He was 1 yr old when someone drove 2 hours to bring him to us because we work with problem animals. The dog weighs a whopping 30 lbs and he had been passed around because of aggression issues, including cornering a woman in her kitchen "herding" her. He also had biting problems and truly should have been put down in his condition, but we said we'd work with him. The first time he came after me, I actually laughed. He is now a respectable citizen that plays safely with children, goes boating and to the beach regularly, and tags along on trail rides, not to mention his long list of tricks.
Again, the animal is only as big as you let it think it is.
I rode with an 80 yr old man at a cutting show in Louisiana. The man was on a stunning black qh stud that was one of the top horses in the country. He let me work the horse in the warm up pen and the stallion never flicked an ear towards a mare. I asked the man why his stud never acted like a stud, even though he had numerous breedings under his belt. That little old man stood about 5'2", and he said "this is a horse, I treat him like a horse, and he acts like a horse, if I were to treat him like something special, he would act like he was something special."
Do I have respect for my horses size? Oh yes, but that does not mean that I will give them food so they will be nice to me. I give them food because it is my responsibility to supply their basic needs. How much respect I require from the horse has nothing to do with his size. I expect the same respect from my 300 lb mini as I did the 2000 lb belgian mare I had come in with crowding and bolting issues. Believe me, I was not nice to that mare because she was bigger than me, I did whatever was necessary to get that cold blooded tank out of my space and respecting my aids. That is what made me comfortable with her size, not the mentality that if I'm nice to her she won't kill me.
I am on the right side of my horses because I offer them safety, comfort, leadership, and stability. They get a good scratch when I pass through and they get the privilege of me riding them and keeping them busy.
Oh and since when do you have Great White Sharks in England??? Or are you referring to your lovely little settlement Down Under? :-)
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