Within every horse there is a desire to synchronize. As long as your horse is not in fear and looking for safety, it will look for comfort. So horses behave as they do because it has been working for them to find comfort. Or, unfortunately, to find the least uncomfortable option...
I was just talking to a friend, about how often gentle behavior of horses is considered normal. Or more specifically: a horse is considered gentle, or naughty. As if they are born this way!
I like to quote Karen Rohlf:
Horses are perfect just the way they are, until a person asks something they can't do yet
We expect so much of our horses, that requires adaptation from the horse to our human environment, goals and rules. It is their natural seeking for synchronization that makes this possible at all. I am really amazed what horses will put up with... Riding with pinching saddles, carrying our unbalanced bodies on top of theirs, tolerating a bit combined with a tightened noseband, going into the trailers at all... Is this normal to expect? Or is it amazingly special?
I am very often thankful, even conscious of little special moments, during my time with the horses.
- an offered hoof to clean
- a smooth and balanced yield during grooming to change sides
- a polite bend towards me for the halter or headstall
- standing still for mounting
- relaxing when I reward
- response to light cues
- following a suggestion, trying to do what is asked
As I love to teach young horses and I spend a lot of time on groundwork, all these steps are special in my eyes. There is always a first time to every experience, so you clearly see it is not normal. It is special that horses can enjoy our time together.
Another favorite quote comes from Parelli:
If your horse is recreation to you, can you be recreation for your horse?
If you think about it this way, maybe you will get more happiness out of the little daily moments. Along the way towards a big goal, the little steps can bring you and your horse much satisfaction.
I love to see young horses find balance and strength in their own body. To see them work out how to respond in our human environment, to see them grow emotionally and gain understanding.
This is a level of synchrony that they can only experience if they can find comfort. Your view on your time together is of big influence.
Don't let your horse choose the least uncomfortable option everyday, find comfort together and say thank you!
It is difficult to put my exact feelings about this topic into words. I hope you understand the subtleness of it. I also hope you can find the moments of synchrony with your horse, on the ground and in the saddle! And as soon as you do: thank your horse ;-)