Time to philosophize a little I guess.
I had to wait till I had the brainspace for this (last week wasn't good for that!) but now I've read it I just want to tell you I love this post, and the ensuing discussion.
The world simply isn't black-and-white. I would say we all operate with working hypotheses around here, as opposed to the more common thing of people operating with fixed mindsets. We're ready to modify our points of view as extra data comes in, and we actively look for data. And that's great, because even many scientists have confirmation bias and are avoiding thinking about data that doesn't support their current ideas... and I see less of that here, than I did amongst science colleagues, so take a bow, everyone.
I think part of that is that for some reason all of us are acutely aware of the complexities in the world, the limitations in human understanding and our own understanding, and that learning is never finished...
These things were subject to change. I think of my relationship with the horses more like a relationship with another person. If I think of it as leader/follower or dominance based, that makes my thoughts about it very one dimensional and shallow. To me it is more complex, and something that grows over time. To me it is more important to say, "What do I want to do about this one thing right now," rather than see everything as a black/white struggle to be in charge of everything.
Couldn't agree more...
I don't know how Hero views his behaviors, but probably he is like us and doesn't think deeply about the "why." When I took him for a walk yesterday, when we started out he did a little mouthing as if he was thinking about starting up some biting, and he leaped forward a couple of times. I didn't think "Oh no, he's testing me," but I wondered if he might be feeling insecure since he a) had barely been out of his field in a couple weeks, b) hadn't been handled by me for a while so wondered if everything was the same as before, and c) feeling nervous or energetic due to the fall weather and wind.
Yeah. And that whole "the horse is testing me / you" dogma is so unbelievably overapplied. It's like many humans think everything is always about them, and about "winning" - and that tells us more about the people who believe these things, than it tells us about horses, the world and general reality. They're always imposing their mindsets on what's around them, and not trying to see it from another perspective - such as the horse's perspective.
I don't think about things as respect or disrespect. When my horses are new to me and I bring them out into new, scary and distractable settings, they often bonk into me and I have to watch carefully to not get stepped on. Over time these incidents become less, but it's not because I establish dominance or correct them for not watching my space. Instead, it's just like what you'd expect with another person. As we move around each other more, they become aware of how I move (different from a horse), and the space I take up. Then they try to avoid me. We all have to experience working together before we can become better at it.
It's so nice when someone gets it!
And the thing is, this doesn't seem especially hard to me. It's not rocket science, it just seems like commonsense to me. Unfortunately, it's not common enough...
Eventually, like yesterday, when we walk through a rough trail through the woods and fields, I watch the ground while sometimes having one horse behind, or in front, or both alongside me. Sometimes both are on the same side. But we all are watching each other, the space and the terrain. When it is narrow, I often walk between the horses with one in front and one behind. Sometimes the front horse might drag me forward a bit, but that's good because I want the horse to push through the things that block our way and if they need to hop or step to get over something I can't see, that's important.
That's having your mind engaging with the environment, and its complexities, and putting yourself in the horses' positions as well. As opposed to operating dogmatically with. "The most important thing in the world is that the horse always kowtows to me because I'm so much more important than it or anyone else."
I also think different horses might do the same behavior for different reasons. A horse might bite you as a warning, or as a rough idea of a game, or because they are scared. Of course we can always reprimand a horse for a bite, but we might consider what it is that the horse needs from us. It's not always strong leadership. You can be as diverse in your place within the horse group as they are with each other. You might say "I'll let you own this one thing," while insisting that you have say in another. They certainly understand when you are insistent, but none of us have to insist that we "own" everything. I believe that would be unnatural to a horse, and make them view us less as a friend and more as some kind of evil dictator.
Again, couldn't agree more, thanks for writing and sharing this!
Can't "like" this enough. I left the thread after hearing, once again, how all I know is based on books. That was never very true, and much of what I say now is based on observing what works/does not work with my horses. And watching how they interact with each other - successfully.
Been there, done that too, and couldn't believe it when I first came across it on the open forum as a newbie here giving some (solicited) advice to a young person, when people who'd never in their lives trained their own horses from scratch, let alone to competition level, were telling me I was "ridiculous" and so was the notion that anything about horses or training them could be learnt from books.
reports getting frequent advice on how wrong she is and how little she knows from people who've never done dressage or trained their own horses from scratch. I am fed up with the interminable hubris of ultra-ignorant people. And, those are also the ones that usually rise to the top in organisations, and politically - because "shiitake floats" and because ignorant people love the confidence and "alpha-ness" of other ignorant people.
It has nothing to do with what I've read because almost every book and every video tells me I'm wrong. Just as the government and my PA tell me I'm eating wrong, although my PA was honest enough to compare my blood work from last year to this. She then told me to keep doing what I'm doing - everything in my blood work shows improvement and I've lost 27 lbs and still losing. She was willing to adjust what she has been taught to match the results, which means she has a real place in medicine!
Excellent - the PA is learning something!
Do you know that story about baboons (I think it was) and the washing of tubers? These young baboons in a wild group being studied by scientists had worked out by accident that the tubers they were digging up tasted nicer when they were washed in water to remove the grit. Within a very short time, all the young baboons in the group were washing the tubers. But not the adults - oh no, they had nothing they could possibly learn from the youngsters. Remind you of anyone? Often, humans only take advice from recognised "experts" no matter how wrong they might turn out to be - and they do it at their own peril. Instead of using their own minds for observation and inference, for doing things by trial and error, and learning from life, not from "authority"...
But to do that, people need to take responsibility for their own lives and thinking, rather than defaulting to parroting the "authorities" and then blaming them when they end up being shown many years later to be wrong about something - but never blaming themselves for their lazy lemming approach to life, and failure to make full use of their own capacities... Don't think and take a stand, just parrot and then you can sue someone later when they're wrong...
Oh and by the way, the most arrogant prats I've ever had to deal with when teaching weren't the A students - never the A students. It was the odd C student who didn't even understand the concepts properly, and appeared blissfully unaware of this fact, who thought they knew more than everyone else in the world...
At some point I have to decide to trust a book or an "expert" - and in horses, anyone who has ridden a lot of horses or owned them for decades is an "expert" even if their advice consistently gets bad results - or I can trust my lying eyes.
It is frustrating on several levels. This simplistic, "Horses are either leaders or followers" mentality is what several riding instructors have told me. It is what almost every book I own preaches - excepting Tom Roberts, maybe. And yet it fails the test I learned long ago in science: "Can your mathematical model PREDICT future results? If not, your model isn't good enough." So...you change the model's math. You do NOT insist reality change to meet your model!
Yeah, the reason I was drawn to Tom Roberts' manuals when I was training my first horse is because he is one of the few published horse people who used his own brain to try to work things out empirically, and because he felt it was supremely important to try to understand the horse's perspective when working with a horse - and because what he said was gelling with my own observations about horse behaviour, and teaching me more about it than I knew when I was 11 - but also always asking me to test these ideas out, to keep my own eyes open, to improvise. Observations, inferences, trial and error, respect for the horse as a horse. And this coming from someone who started training people to ride and working with the "problem horses" in the army at age 16 - someone who worked in the real world, not some esoteric specialty.
Reading what he had to say is very much like reading what the people in our little journal group have to say about their dealings with horses. It's based on the same sorts of things.
Love the rest of that post of yours and the discussion that followed and would like to say more, but I really must go do some work!