...I think the big thing is that we don't focus on being the boss. We won't be bossed by the horse
, but we also don't micromanage their behavior. We aren't competing with them. Even in riding, we often are mostly hanging out with them while on their backs - horse hiking, I call it. Hiking together. Horses also understand the difference between someone who strolls and someone who marches...
...and they stroll with strollers.
Yes yes yes! When you focus on "being the boss" that's, first of all, taking a competition rather than a cooperation point of view, when social animals are very cooperative with animals and people they like and respect. I've seen many instances where submissive horses shut down their opinions completely around people focused on being the boss, and spirited, clever horses engage in the fight with such people. This is not how to get the best out of a horse. To get the best out of a horse, or person, you need dialogue
, not monologue. I'm not inclined to talk to bullies either - it's an unpleasant business. I only truly engage
with people I like and respect. And horses, donkeys etc are much the same. Our people at the Donkey Society are always talking about this. They say, "A donkey would never put up with half
the training rubbish and attitudes dished out by a lot of horse people!"
People are commonly saying, "Training a donkey is so different to training a horse!" For me it wasn't in the slightest - the approach I use with horses is perfectly acceptable to donkeys. And dogs. And humans.
Once, in a conversation with a high school principal, about a particular class of rumbunctious middle schoolers I was taking, and taming (I really
don't like bad manners and inconsiderate behaviour), I remarked, in the middle of a pleasant conversation, "It's just like training horses, really!" and she was soooo shocked at me!
Sue, children aren't animals!"
I don't ever
focus on being the boss
- or being in control
- and I don't micromanage everything. (And yet I'm the leader, but it's not a big thing to me and I don't think I'm above my charges.) I focus on creating a constructive environment, being warm, and not putting up with any rubbish. But you can enforce boundaries in very subtle ways, if you get in early and don't let misbehaviour escalate. There is so much body language in a horse, most of the time, before it bites or whatever. You can be proactive, and not reactive. A lot of people are really reactive, and go ape when the horse has already bolted, so to speak. There's so much prevention if you keep your eyes open and really look at body language, and understand how certain situations tend to go.
pointed out in her "do do - not don't don't" thread recently, it's much more constructive to ask for positive actions, rather than jump up and down about negative actions. "Walk on!" rather than "Don't stop!"... "Be nice!" rather than "Don't be horrible!"... "Do XYZ!" rather than "Stop doing ABC!" If you have the "Stop! Don't you dare!" mentality, it becomes a power struggle. If you ask for positive actions, and encourage and reinforce those, while discouraging negative actions, that's so much more constructive, and not overtly about power. Maybe good leadership is also like a butterfly. It alights on you while you're doing other things - you don't get it by focusing on it and chasing it. Because in true leadership, you don't care about your status, you care about the good of the group, about the positive development of relationships, about mutual respect, over and above "being respected". You can impose being feared - but you have to earn
respect, by being warm, caring, fair, competent, and not taking nonsense, nor tolerating it between group members. I'd say to classes, "I'm not above anyone in this room. We're all human beings. And if you wouldn't say it to me, or do it to me, then don't do it to anyone else in this room either, because I'm going to take exactly the same view of that, and the consequences will be the same. It's not OK to be disrespectful and rude to other people, full stop." But then I'd get on with the positive role modelling and positive activities, and the discouragement of negative stuff is not the main focus - it gets dealt with as you go along. You basically make it so the least possible amount of focus and energy goes on the negative, and you nurture and encourage the positive.
As the best pastoral care policy I ever read put it, "Immediate
and consistent consequences for negative behaviours, but 95%+ of time and energy going to the positive. Showing what you want primarily by modelling it, by being that way. Genuinely respecting your students, and caring for them."