Horse Training Psychology – Human Behavior Recognition Process

by Matt Janzen on January 4, 2008

Let’s look at the human perspective areas of adjustment more specifically. We bring many imbalances into the human/horse interaction. What are some of the specific human-based perspectives and focus that we can recognize and simply try to adjust to fit the human/horse environment we’re working within? Humans have some very positive traits when it comes to achieving goals. Many of these same positive traits for some achievement based outlook are a contradiction to the human/horse interaction endeavor. We applaud “rising to the occasion”, i.e. “Cowboy/Cowgirl Up” but if it is at the expense of our horses dignified treatment, we shouldn’t. It is simply going to create an unsafe environment for us and our horse: if we instill discomfort it will cause our horse to stay in their more instinctive self-protection reactive mode; the origin of which is based in fear. We have specifically offended our endeavor and one half of the participants involved; our horses.

The submissive half (the horse) of the equation is just as important as the dominant half (the human). We can’t establish leadership roles and direction without both halves being legitimately recognized and respected. The word, submissive, need not have a negative connotation. Without the horse submitting and following our direction; there isn’t any interaction. The negative connotation outlook only comes from our chauvinistic focus on life which contradicts the horses immensely. It isn’t about discrediting these traits; it is about recognizing when they work and when they don’t. Humans qualify their existence in a way that is a contradiction to how horses qualify their existence. Humans want to satisfy their sense of achievement. We like being able to say… “I got it done.” The “get it done” mentality is not conducive to creating comfort in our horses though. Getting “it” done means nothing to our horses unless we qualify it for them through their perspective. If we satisfy their sense of safety, if we satisfy their hunger, if we let them move freely without too much impediment; they’re existence is then qualified and reinforced to follow our direction with positive connotation, with a willing submission; rather then forced.

Especially, in the initial stages of coming into our horse’s space, we have to recognize the driving force in the horse’s mind-frame and what causes discomfort to them. If we are able to adjust our focus in a way that doesn’t encroach or offend their natural outlook we maintain and become qualified comfort providers. The key part is what may offend and overwhelm them not the human. The human is often more easily offended or at least, human’s discomfort is usually more acknowledged. If we don’t recognize this correctly and adjust it accordingly, it creates stress and discomfort resulting in negatively reflected reactions instead of developed comfortable responses and keeps the horse more in a fear based reactive mode. We can develop more comfort; in this focus for developmental process. We can release the freedom of movement through the horse and “get out of their way” more. We then get the most wonderful feeling of getting to be on board these magnificent creatures and still maintain a sense of being in control of the physical power and beauty of movement.

If we approach how we specifically apply pressure to define a developed response; they will accommodate us more willingly. Consent rather then merely conceding to submitting to our directions. It really is about adjusting how we focus on the physics, psychology and natural desires of horses and humans that help these interactions turn safer and more positive.

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