I am still struggling with my newly opened eyes in regards to horse training. Watching programs that I would have previously found helpful, interesting and relevant, now make me feel sad and depressed.
I always felt I had empathy for the horse, but knew (and taught) that in their training, the horse must learn “respect and obedience”. This was fact. End of story. But I see things so differently now.
I was watching a world famous trainer last night in the round pen. He says “I’m not chasing the horse, I am allowing him to move his feet”. But I know different. I can see the fear and the tension. It feels wrong. Mean.
He puts on the lead. Yanks backwards on the rope, making the horse back up. The horse is clearly scared, crowding him, ignoring him. It looks mean. I would have done the same thing. That makes me feel bad.
More of the same. More sickness in the pit of my stomach. I did these things for years. I realise I treated horses worse then I would treat my dog. Scared horses move away. Scared dogs bite. I would have been bitten long ago.
But it causes such a huge conflict inside me. How would I handle a horse crowding me, ignoring me, putting me in danger. I don’t know. I know what works, but that no longer works for me.
If I were leading a horse that constantly ran ahead of me, yanking and pulling. Fearful, wanting to get away. How would I handle that? I don’t know. I don’t know and that scares me.
For years I taught reluctant owners how to deal with these things. How to get tougher and stand firm. How to boss their horse around until they became “obedient and respectful”. It worked, they were grateful, my ego was boosted, everyone was happy. I think even the horses were happy at the end, but the process was so ugly.
Making them more afraid of me then what ever else is bothering them. That’s the bottom line. More fearful of making me mad then being away from their friends. And it works. But it is such an ugly process.
I’m lucky my horses are so well behaved (due to years of being made to behave), so my dilemma doesn’t really effect my horses, but it’s a hard place to be. People ask my opinion and all I can say is I don’t know.
I’ve gone from being an expert in my field to having no idea what to do. I’ve even lost the ability to watch other trainers without feeling sick. I just see the fear, and how easy it is to use that fear against the horse. It’s so effective.
What comes next? I wish I knew. My horses are out at pasture while I try to figure it out. Elsa Sinclair comes in August. She has come out the other side of a similar dilemma, and I hope working with her will give me direction.
It’s a hard place to be. Horses are bred to serve us. They have to be safe and obedient, but the process to get there is ugly and fear induced. Is there a better way? I certainly hope so.
For more information on the upcoming Elsa Sinclair clinic, click here.