CFN – This Column of “Spirits in Unity” is being published by CFN for the community of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry.
When learning about rapport we are especially focusing on #1 of the Confidence Ladder (see Column #34), Confidence in you as a leader.
For many it is just about obedience. And true there is an element of that to it. But for me it’s about a bond and a friendship with the horse. You see there is something beyond obedience that I want to achieve and that is ‘heart and desire’. I believe that you can get a horse to run faster, jump higher, move more gracefully, etc. with heart and desire instead of force. When he wants to do things for you, he will put more effort into it. He will offer you unexpected things. He will be more willing. He will be more exuberant and enthusiastic. He will be having fun and so will you.
Some horses have great experiences with humans, but sadly the opposite is true for most of them.
Right brain horses (the ‘Super Spookers‘) seem to be the harder ones with which to establish rapport because they are so fearful. Developing rapport with Left Brain horses (the ‘Konfident Kids‘) can be just as challenging but in a much different way.
Changing the Human Equation
Some of us are naturally friendly so having a relationship with a horse is important. Others are more interested in obedience than relationships. What works is the middle ground and balancing rapport with respect. So some of us need to learn how to become more friendly and need to learn how to ask more of our horse without losing the friendship.
How Much Does Your Horse Like to Be With You?
If you were using a scale of 1 to 10 and 1 was that your horse prefers to be with other horses and 10 is that he prefers to be with you. Where would you rate your horse?
How important is friendship with you?
Again if 1 is unimportant and 10 is being all important, where would you rate yourself?
Compare your scores
What’s is interesting about this is that often the more you care about the friendship, the less your horse does. Why is this? We humans base friendship mainly on kindness and so we tend to focus on the kindness aspect of our relationship. But horse often feel more bonded to a more dominate horse.
‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’
It becomes hard to stop thinking like a human and start thinking more like a horse, but that is exactly what you need to do. We have this expression in humanville that goes, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ That’s good for the human world but if you use that idea with your horse you will be going down the wrong path.
You need to know how your horse likes to be cared for. Here are some questions to think about.
Things That Decrease Rapport
Do you treat him according to his individual personality?
Do you corner your horse to catch him?
Do you push your horse through thresholds. (when your horse hesitates due to fear)
Do you pat your horse or rub him?
Do you hold him back when he wants to go?
Do you for your horse to do something he doesn’t want to do ie push, spank?
Do you incite fear in him when you play with him?
Do you let him get away with things?
Do you do things that annoy him? (brush sensitive spots too roughly, etc.)
Signs of lack of rapport in Your Horse
Does you horse run away when you want to catch him?
Does he have trouble coming to you?
Does he nip or bite you?
Does he kick or threaten to kick you?
Does he try to leave or pull away?
Does he brace against you? (leg, hand, rein)
Does he look away from you? (Can’t look you in the eye)
Does he get herd (rather be with other horses)
Does he act barn sweet? (wants to be at the barn rather than with you)
Does he get tense or fearful of you?
Sometimes a horse’s unfriendliness has been earned by you through your own actions. And sometimes you have inherited it from someone’s else’s treatment of your horse.
Your number one responsibility is to make it a positive experience for him and show him that you are a good leader.
And here’s the rub. You cannot remedy lack of rapport with training. It is more about your attitude and your approach. It’s about learning how to act like a horse.
Do you think that there are some important lessons here for us? There are no bad horses. Ever notice that those bad things you think he does don’t occur when he is in his herd. Oh my, I wonder where the problem lies. That’s right with us.
I am proud to say that all my students have made that transformation in their thinking. They don’t always get it right. After all we are still learning together. But they do have the right attitude, an attitude of justice and a positive and progressive approach.
I think all of my students have experienced that great feeling when they earn the friendship and trust of the world’s most discerning prey animal.
True rapport is not easy to get with a horse. It can take a long time. To accomplish it you have to understand your horse as a species and as an individual. I hope that this series of columns will open your hearts to what is important to horses and help you win his trust and friendship.
Check out our next column to test your horse’s affection quotient.
Today’s column is a compilation of thoughts inspired by various writings, talks and presentations of Horse Masters Pat and Linda Parelli as well as personal experiences with horses.
For all those people who give horses loving homes, and for all those kids who are wishing for that special partner, may all your dreams come true also.
Whether you are just a horse lover, have dreams of owning a horse someday, or already have one, I hope these columns will give you some insight into the true nature of these magnificent creatures. I hope you will find them both informative and inspirational.
Be part of your horse’s dreams, not his nightmares.
May all your dreams come true,
Garry “Horsetalker” Meek