I looked up the definition of this word and came up with – ‘regard with deference, avoid degrading, insulting, injuring or interrupting and treat with consideration’. Respect is a word that is heard often in horse circles, usually when a person is saying a horse doesn’t have enough respect. This is considered a very bad thing and the horse must be taught to show more respect for humans immediately. I usually start feeling quite uncomfortable when I hear people use this word in reference to horses as it usually means the horse is in for a tough time. Sometimes I think people are actually creating fear in their horses and calling it respect. The methods used to create this ‘respect’ certainly don’t fit in with the definition of the word above.
Which brings me to a very important question, ‘is the person respecting the horse’? Are the same people who want the horse to respect them returning the favor? Or is it a one way street? These are important questions that everyone who handles horses needs to be asking. If the horse is not treated with respect during the training process, then there is every chance that the training will result in a fearful, distrustful horse. And guess what, this horse will then be classified as one that isn’t showing enough respect. And so the cycle continues.
Going back to our definition of respect, how many people regard a horse with deference? Just the fact that they allow us to sit on their backs is an amazing act of giving on their part. To show deference to these incredible animals that do so much for us should be easy, but unfortunately a lot of what they do for us is taken for granted and taken as our ‘right’. Do we all make sure we never degrade, insult, injure or interrupt a horse? I think that not degrading, insulting or injuring a horse is pretty obvious and most people would know if they cross this line. But crazy as it sounds even interrupting a horse is showing a lack of respect. A simple act like scratching the head on a leg is regularly interrupted by people quickly pulling the horses head up and not allowing it. And treating with consideration, this means consider how things are for the horse at all times, how is it for them?
Imagine a relationship of mutual respect between you and your horse. In such a relationship there is time to be aware of the others needs and wants. Your horse is relaxed and happy in your presence, knowing you will not force it into fearful situations that you have not prepared it for. Knowing that you will take moments to tune into it and find out how it’s coping with what is happening. Your horse respects your judgement and feels safe in your presence and because of this resistances fall away and self-confidence grows. Your confidence as a horse person also grows because you now understand how things are for the horse. This knowledge brings a feeling of empowerment and connection for you both. You find the time spent with your horse is now fun and full of adventure and wonderful surprises as you open up to each other, instead of hard work and fighting.
Respect is a wonderful thing if it is two way. Check in with yourself and see if you are willing to respect the horse as much as you expect the horse to respect you. Once you can say yes to this question you are on a beautiful path that could lead you anywhere……
Suzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.
Happy Horses Bitless
Lismore, NSW, Australia
Ph: 0401 249 263
Facebook: Happy Horses Bitless Bridles