Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Central Hill Country Texas
Thank-you for the explanation.
I want to keep you from falling into the trap a lot of first time horse owners get themselves into trying to apply the human concept of "nice" to their horses. Fair, yes. Considerate, yes. "Nice", no.
It does a horse no good to live a life without consequences for behavior that makes them incompatible with humans; that often leads to the slaughterhouse.
I love my horse Oliver, he and I have a special connection and he will do things for me that he makes everyone else work for. He gives me these soft little knickers, follows me all over the pasture when I check fences, keeps all of the other horses from crowding me and prefers to be with me rather than the herd. Most often, the slightest ask from me gets an immediate desired response. Sounds like a romantic book doesn't it?
Sometimes he can still be a turd and at those times, I need to physically, appropriately, calmly, discipline him without malice and we move on. That's reality.
To someone who has never seen a disengement I may appear to be "rough" or abrupt when I turn him in a tight circle with his head on my boot after he decided that he wanted to canter through the juniper brush rather than on the trail and that stopping, was an optional suggestion coming from his rider.
At that point, I am not being "nice" at all, but neither was he when he disregarded my well being. I am however in that moment being fair and considerate. He made a bad choice, a horse who makes a lot of bad choices is a dangerous animal. Dangerous animals end up at the auction barn. As much as he needs to learn that I care for him, he needs to learn that behavior has a consequences, good and bad, his choice. If I offer him a good deal, and he chooses not to take it, well the next offering won't be as good of a deal. It is precisely because I care for him that sometimes I need to be not-nice.
Now, when something like that happens, being the higher thinking being it is inevitably my responsibility.
Almost without exception I knew long before my butt hit the seat that he was not in a listening mood, but rather than spend the time going into a round pen, working on ground manners, reviewing the basics, doing some arena work until he was respectful and listening, I wanted to ride.
My bad choices made his bad choices an inevitability. That was not "fair" of me. You will make mistakes and it is all part of learning horsemanship a process that is never ending.
Do you see how complex all of this can get? Owning a horse and creating a good horse is often done by dancing on the head of a pin split between discipline, fairness, consideration, responsibility and a building of mutual trust over time. It helps tremendously to have someone there who knows, watching your back.
“You spend your whole life with horses and just about the time you think you have them figured out, a horse comes along that tells you otherwise.” –quote from my very wizened trainer