There are so many people in the world who know more about horses than I do. More about horse handling. I do know this, neither fear nor anger have any place, anywhere near a horse.
“A horseman should know neither fear, nor anger.” ~ James Rarey
An expected Adventure guest for 2013 has been sharing her experiences taking horsemanship and riding lessons with me as we both hope it will make the time between now and when she arrives go by faster. One of her earlier experiences deals with becoming comfortable around horses, on the ground. This experience and our talking about it, via email, wrapped around into how I would deal with it, the horses and my opinion on training practices.
“There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few that learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence.”
I asked her, if I could share our conversation with others (you!) because it is a good point and it just may save someone from being injured at some point. She told me that she couldn’t wait to read it, when I finished.
So, here is the piece of our conversation that set the bells ringing for me:
“Pepper did not scare me, but I did let her bully me when the feed came out. I knew I shouldn’t let her but I wasn’t sure how to stop her without possibly hurting one of us, so I just backed off. Josh showed me how to ‘blow up’ your body, and demonstrated by waving his hands around occasionally, which would then pop her in the face and neck if she got too close to the bucket. He even threw his leg up once popping her in the belly. Once she blew her breathe out at him, and backed off. He let her have the feed. And here came ever animal in the yard looking to snap up the scraps. Chickens, big ole labs, ducks – all milling around her feet. I would have never felt comfortable hitting someones horse, even though the pops did not have a lot of force, but they weren’t super gentle either. What do you think of the method?”
(Me) You really want to know? Can you take it? (Serious voice)
You CAN NOT hurt a horse with your hands or feet. You CAN NOT hurt a horse with a stick or with leather to smack them with. Period.
(Disclaimer here, now listen, I am not talking about beating a horse till he bleeds or breaks- I am talking about as if: me smacking you with the same force and with the same lead rope or stick and leaving a stinging bruise- yeah it would hurt…YOU. NOT the HORSE.)
The biggest problem, unhappiness causing, drag of guests or visitors (and their guides)… is this exact point. THIS POINT.
** YOU CANNOT HURT THE HORSE.
You (anyone) are 150-200 pounds average guest or client -vs- 1,100-1,700 POUND ANIMAL. Guess what? YOU can’t hurt HIM.
(Same thing, when I was learning karate, tae-kwon-do, kick boxing and self defense, the ONE thing that my Master kept saying over and over again -as I became deadlier and deadlier- “Run. Get Away. If you get away, YOU WIN.” Do you understand why? Really, why? Because a man, on average, will ALWAYS be bigger and stronger. I can’t simply hurt him, I could stop him… but it may be permanent. That is a heavy responsibility. To know that power is inside you. )
Same thing- you CAN’T hurt that horse, ANY horse, but they CAN hurt you. Remember that. Not necessarily out of meanness, or even ill training, but because they out weigh you by times ten.
And. They are not people, they are horses, a critter. No different than a chicken. (Can you imagine how scared we would be if they weighed 1,100 pounds?! LOL…) If a horse is crowding you, rush at you, the “Make yourself bigger” usually works, eye contact, a sharp tone, usually works. A reminder that you are there, usually works, “HEY!”
On the trail, if you are half a mile behind me- that is your problem, not the horse’s, because I will have already shown you that he CAN keep up, HE is taking advantage of YOU. A good smack on the hip/butt, gets his attention and lets him know that you are onto him. Then, if he forgets, most of the time you can wiggle it and he’s all like, “Oops!” and steps out again.
Now, I’ll add my own “Oops!”… I fell into one of my biggest (and only) real gripes; Guests or clients who fall so far behind, they miss out on what they are here to see! LOL, bottom line, a normal person (i.e., no rage issues!) can not hurt a horse by typical means or even by “man-handling.”
(Before I forget, Robin, My 14 year old son, Zach, read this post over for me, in hopes that he may be able to help me with a title… yes, I have the most trouble with coming up with titles!!… Anyhow.. He noticed that it’s funny your horse’s name is Pepper and Salt is mine! LOL, I hadn’t even noticed!)