Why won’t my Horse Listen!?!?

Well, your horse is listening, you just don’t know how to speak yet – at least not in the way that horses speak.

While we are very well developed in our ability to communicate verbally (compared to horses at least) we are not so great at things like being aware of our body language, and being able to effectively convey our desired meanings to others.

I often see people complaining that their horse is not listening, is not following the aides given to them, or is even being a little nutty. Interestingly enough though, when I watch how they are trying to communicate with their horse, I am not at all surprised that the horse is just plain confused. Horses are forgiving creatures, we underestimate just how hard they try to make us happy (often for the simple reason to avoid conflict). It is difficult though for the horse to give us what we want when we are giving mixed signals. Our arms say one thing, our posture says another, the pressure we’re applying to the horse says yet another and our intention is something completely different.

Part of what is lacking is, yes, the understanding of how horses communicate and how to effectively convey what we want within our body language. But within this we must consider that part of the puzzle is US – who we are. What is it that stops us from reflecting on the question “Why won’t my horse listen?” – why do we so often blame the horse and refuse to consider that we are the ones who need to adjust our approach so that we can HELP our horses understand what it is that we are wanting to communicate.

It is so common to see people looking for new and improved ways to force their horse to do something, often by using pain. Sadly, it is in these situations that we will see the development of behavioural issues in a horse, as well as the development of health issues (injuries due to the horse not being properly physically prepared on all levels for the demands placed on them; colic). Even then, we often refuse to look at ourselves – we look for ways to try fix the issues that crop up – but without addressing the cause of the issues, they will, naturally, continue to reoccur.

I am sure you can agree with me, for the sake of your horse, when I say that we are rather proud and stubborn creatures. We are too proud to look in the mirror at how WE have contributed to creating a bad situation, and we will stubbornly continue to refuse to do so until something forces us to look – and that something is seldom pleasant.

So what will it take for us to take a long, hard look in the mirror without waiting for some awful event (where the horse usually pays the price for our obstinance)? We are the ones who have to be better, we are the ones who have the responsibility to ensure that we are doing the best we possibly can for our horses – not the other way around. When we make the choice to take responsibility for another living being – a being that is so very different from us – the onus of responsibility rests upon our shoulders, and only upon ours. It is unfair to burden our horses with the expectation that they will somehow adapt themselves to suit our limited way of communicating. We are the ones with the ability to adapt ourselves. We are the ones who want to ride horses. We are the ones who are removing horses from their natural states and asking them to perform for us. The least we can do for them is make the effort to understand exactly how they communicate and ensure that our efforts to communicate with them are as easy as possible for them to understand.

There is so much material available – my suggestion is to look for material where the author loves what they do, loves horses and focuses on bringing out the best in their horses – and by that I mean where they help their horses to have the best time possible.

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