How much of your horse’s behavior is caused by your relationship — good or bad?? I’ve found that the horse human relationship is incredibly important for effective training and safe riding.? If you’ve had a good relationship with your horse or a bad one, please share your experiences in the comments.
Summary of the Horse-Human Relationship Video
– Howdy friends. My name is Paul Sherland from SaddleUpAgain.com. And I want to talk a little bit today about the horse-human relationship. I want to start by telling a couple of stories about buying a horse.
Imagine that you’re thinking about buying a horse, and you talk to the prior owner to ask ’em about the horse. So I’m going to talk about two different prior owners for a horse I was considering. The first one was telling me that this horse was a great horse and was used as a ranch horse.? I asked if the horse had ever bucked with her.? ?She told me he’d bucked only once in seven years of riding.? She said she’d gotten into some sort of wreck, after she’d roped a cow and the horse had to jump the cow that she had roped to get out of this wreck.? That was too much for him to take and he bucked. But she also told me about a situation where she roped another cow, and she’d forgotten to tighten the cinch on the saddle. The saddle slid up the horse’s neck, and the horse still held the cow. And that’s pretty amazing.
Another horse, another story, I was talking to the owner and he said that the horse was a jug head and wasn’t really good for that much. He said that he used him as a team-roping horse but he was only a heading horse and not a healer.? He also said you really needed to work him up to a sweat before you took him into the arena, because he just didn’t behave very well in the arena. I asked if the horse bucked him off, and he said several times.? He told me about a time when the horse was mad and he was mad.? He tightened up the cinch and climbed aboard ready for a fight and the horse still bucked him off.? And then he said, “Well of course I’m no bronc rider.” and I was thinking to myself, I’m no bronc rider either.
So, which horse would you buy? I think the first horse would be the one that most people would go for. The funny thing was that it was the same horse, and it was this horse. And those stories came after I purchased this horse, and it was after he bucked me off the first time, or actually the second time. I had gotten his papers, called the folks who had owned him for most of his life, and those two people were husband and wife. So there was no difference in horse care, he was getting the same food, when being ridden by both people. The difference was in the relationship. The difference was in the horse-human relationship. And obviously the woman, the wife had a great relationship with this horse, this horse took care of her, and filled in for her when the going got tough. The horse, this horse, did not have a good relationship with the husband. When the husband rode this horse, there was a fight.
So, I think that happens a lot of times. I think people might purchase a horse and things go either really well, or things don’t go well at all and they blame the horse.? I think a lot of times it’s more the human that’s to blame. I know that’s true with this horse.
After he bucked me off, our relationship deteriorated with every new buck off.? What I ended up doing was more and more ground work. More and more drilling, and that made him more tense, and that hurt our relationship.? Actually, he was tense any time he was around me, you can see he’s not tense now.? And I took him to clinics with some really well-known clinicians, that didn’t help, because the clinics really aren’t designed to fix the relationship.
So the fix, or the turning point, started after I watched a video by Warwick Schiller called “10 Year Old Girl Training”.? I’ve got another blog post about that but that got me thinking about the importance of connection, the connection that I had with horses when I was a kid, that I obviously didn’t have with him.
So I changed what I did, and the turning point day was when I took him into the round pen, which had been the scene of a lot of drilling.? He could do the exercises in Buck Brannaman’s groundwork DVD, automatically. We’d go into the round pen, he’d start doing the exercises.
But the difference, the change in our horse-human relationship was when I went into the round pen, took off his halter, and I sat on the mounting block, and didn’t do anything. And he automatically just started to go to the fence, because I normally worked him at liberty, and he’d just start running around the pen, and start bucking.
I had talked with some clinicians, and they had advised, “don’t let him get away with it”. So they had advised, when he started bucking to stop him, turn him, get him in the other direction — that made him more tense. That was not working.
So on that day, I just sat on the mounting block and didn’t do anything. And he started to the fence, and looked at me, and stopped, and then gradually over about 10 or 15 minutes he walked up to me and he lowered his head, and he just exhaled, and his eyes were half closed, and he stood there. Not grazing, not wondering off, just stood there next to me with his eyes half closed. And it was a moving moment.
That was the turning point, and since then, I’ve really changed the way I work with him, and with my other horses. And it’s made all the difference in the world. So if you’ve got a horse that you’re having problems with take a look at your relationship.
It’s not only the relationship you have while you’re riding your horse, it’s how you handle the horse when you’re working with him in the barn — it’s when you’re working with a horse at all.? ?There’s a saying on the feed room door at my barn, and it says, “leave your stuff at the door”. If you’ve got frustrations, you’ve got anger, you’ve got worry, whatever it is you’re dealing with, away from the barn, leave it at the door, and you and your horse will be better for it.
If you’re having problems with your horse, please think about that, and take a look at your relationship, and you may find that you have a different horse if your relationship with your horse improves. That horse-human relationship is incredibly important, and I hope that maybe this story helps you out a little bit. So, this is SaddleUpAgain, I’m Paul Sherland, thank you for watching.
Delle Fairclough says
I have had to re evaluate my skills both mentally and physically to get to where I am now. If there is not a relationship with the horse – in that the horse trusts me, it is very difficult to work with them – in that “stuff” will likely go pretty good about 80% of the time – however, the other 20% or part there of – is icing on the cake. Also saves about 10 years of “gaining experience”. It is important to remember the horse is a living creature, it has a language, it communicates, speaks a different language from us – reads us like a book – if we want to get better with the horses, – it can mean a big attitude change in the human – makes a world of difference to the horse:)
Paul Sherland says
Thanks very much for this comment Delle! As you say, that trusting relationship is so important. I know you ride a lot “outside” and when your horse trusts you, your horse is likely to stick with you when unanticipated situations arise on the trail. It truly is equivalent to those extra years of gaining experience. You also make a very important point about horses being “thinking” creatures with the ability to “read” humans. My horse was probably reading me as a “distracted driver” and it didn’t inspire his trust.
Delle Fairclough says
I have since learned trust while very important, our horses can hang out with us, be mellow yellow, yet for some reason there is still an underlying current which is still not correct, their faces don’t reflect what their bodies are doing. Quite by accident, I learned this particular horse was challenging “authority”or “ask” which I didn’t know until I asked her to lead – she said “no”, while holding pressure on the halter and waiting can be one of the answers, I instantly knew in this situation, this was not the answer, as I had my lunge whip handy, I picked it up, gave her a “pop”(she is desensitized to the whip) – she walked. I repeated this exercise several more times in the same physical location. Except the “pop” became, I turn with my shoulder, I look for a second I walk and are you coming. To do this particular exercise, sometimes it is important to walk slightly into the horses space to pick up the connection(this horse follows me in the RP) leads across the yard, etc. However, the biggest change was – all of the tension was gone in her face, her muzzle had relaxed into a “smooth canvas”. Tomorrow is another day, I’m looking forward to what she is going to bring to the table.
Paul Sherland says
Thanks for sharing this experience Delle!