Horses Forgive Bad Behavior by Humans but They Never Forget
From: Liberty Voice
By: Alana Burke
Seasoned and smart horse owners can tell in an instant whether the horse they are approaching has been handled, or mishandled. The most perceptive trainers, handlers and owners can read the subtle and often not so subtle nuances of equine language that indicate a clear welcome, a sense of uncertainty or a clear defensive posture. They then adjust their motions, attitude and behaviors accordingly in order to achieve the best outcome for both horse and human in the ensuing interactions. However there are also those who, despite years of lessons at the barn, a library full of “How to” horse books and even a genuine love for horses, remain clueless to the fact that horses will forgive humans for behaving badly or insensitively but they never forget how they have been treated and they will pattern their behaviors accordingly.
For example, at a barn recently, a teenage girl, laughing with her companions, decked out in a lovely equine monogrammed sweatshirt and knee-high leather equestrian boots approached her horse rapidly from the rear and then squealed in anger when the horse mildly kicked out at her with one hind leg. The girl walked into the tack room, grabbed a small crop and then proceeded to smack her horse on the rump repeatedly while she told the horse in no uncertain terms that he was not going to get away with his bad behavior. She then turned to her companions and said, “He always does that – he’s such a little brat.”
Even from a distance, it was clear that the horse had very low expectations of his owner, and that he was not surprised by her negative behavior. In fact, by his posture, he seemed resigned to it. After the horse was saddled, it became clear that he was going to faithfully carry his rider around the arena while her friends watched. The horse moved well for his owner, supple and moving off her leg commands but in his eyes, there was an emotional shadow and the shadow represents his mistrust of his owner.
Habitat for Horses is always on the lookout for a few great people at our ranches. The work is unique, the animals are special and we want folks who both know and understand the special connection our animals need.