It is so easy to blame everything our horses do on bad behavior or just “how our horse is”. But I want to challenge a mindset shift to increase awareness about how our horses respond to the stimuli and situations we put them in daily. Most of the time, there is a reason for the choices our horses make and how they respond to “human life”.
I chalk this up to a couple categories; Physical, or mental. Now when I am struggling to perform a task with my horse I will try and figure out where the cause is, and then find solutions to that specific cause. Sometimes the inhibitor of the task could also be a combination of multiple different causes instead of one specific cause.
PHYSICAL; DISCOMFORT, PAIN, BODY CONTROL
Physical inhibitors or limitations are everywhere. They can be as simple as when our horse can not perform a maneuver due to fitness or muscle control (i.e a horse in the first year of starting under saddle will have a harder time at collection for long periods of time), or a horse struggling with the farrier may have a tight hamstring, tight thoracic sling, or be tender on the opposite foot.
That last exampled is something I apply on a regular basis. As a part time farrier for my own horses and select client horses, I’ve found I have less issues with horses fighting me if I apply an easy boot cloud to the opposing foot during trimming. This is something I have struggled with for years and was one of the reasons I quit farrier work full time. Fighting with a horse to trim or shoe them is HARD on the body and mind. I’ve found for my own horses and client horses this boot solves the issue. What’s funny is it took so many years to figure it out and it was recommended to me by a colleague. A simple issue, that caused my horse discomfort and then in turn caused disharmony and frustration on my side. It had a simple fix, we just needed to look at the root cause.
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MENTAL; CONFUSION, FEAR, OR MISUNDERSTANDING
Mental limitations stem to training or exposure. A horse not able to perform an exercise in a balanced fashion might not understand what exactly the expectation is. Over and over through the years I have experience unfit experienced horses AND fit inexperienced horses. I feel in the long run even an unfit but experienced horse always has an easier time performing tasks than one not experienced. In this case to me the mental aspect of training horses is more important sometimes than the physical aspect. If a horse is struggling with an exercise physically, a lot of the times slowing things down and explaining it to them in smaller bite size chunks actually resolves the issue.
Fear on the other hand is a different story: this in itself is a huge barrier for learning and can stem from so many different places. It is a conversation for another day, but confusion and misunderstanding can lead to fear. If fear is present, it MUST be removed from the equation before learning can take place.
This could be a lot more lengthy to unpack, but next time you struggle with your horse or are approaching a system/task, ask yourself how you can remove any of the above type limitations to make things EASIER on your horse to respond to your request.
They want to be in harmony, if they are not there is a reason!
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