This is the first in a series of blogs I am going to write about the need to have your horse respect you. It won’t be as much a “how to make it happen” blog as it will be an overview of what I have personally learned about gaining my horse’s respect, and what that means in terms of our relationship and my safety. What does it look like when you have your horse’s respect?
The Dog Whisperer
I am known as “the Dog Whisperer”. Currently, I have five dogs… four of them are Border collies or BC/Aussie mixes. One is a black German shepherd. Four of the five are rescues. I can put my dogs in a down-stay and they will hang out on my step landing for hours while I have a party. When we take our daily walk, there is a very small section where we have to walk on a road. If a car comes, they come to me immediately and all lie down off the side of the road. My boyfriend and I just took all five dogs to his lake house last weekend. Everyone was amazed at how the five dogs would run ahead of the golf cart down to the dock, jump on the boat and lie down when told, and generally behave like the stellar dogs they are.
So given that fact about how I handle my dogs, I am really not sure why I didn’t understand the message my young trainer was trying to give me a few years ago when she noticed how disrespectfully my gray Arabian, Kadeen, behaved around me. She really did encourage me to not let him get into my “bubble” and do other somewhat subtle things that screamed a lack of respect. But for whatever reason, I didn’t get her message.
Seeing is believing…
Fast forward to one weekend where I went to a cattle roundup clinic/working weekend. The owner of the ranch was a great horseman as well as a knowledgeable rancher. The first day we worked cows in a pen…. A nice enclosed space. Kadeen did fine, notwithstanding the fact that he jigged from the stall area all the way down the road to the pens, rather than a nice, flatfooted relaxed walk. He waded in amongst the steers with little understanding of what he was supposed to do but no fear about being surrounded by cattle. The next day, however, we were out in an open field, gathering up a herd. Kadeen is the typical high energy, competitive Arabian, and he was wired that day. All day long he jigged and pranced and piaffed relentlessly.
By the end of the day, I was totally exhausted. I had been riding a volcano all day long. On the way back, David, the ranch owner, asked if I wanted to swap horses with him? He quietly said to me, “You know you don’t have the level of respect you should have from your horse. He respects you some or he would have dumped you long ago, but you only have half of what you need.” I gladly swapped horses with him. I was never so glad to crawl onto the back of a sedate Quarter horse as I was that day.
As soon as we returned to camp, David beckoned for me to follow him. He took Kadeen to the high walled, enclosed round pen. It was there that my eyes were opened. The Dog Whisperer, the lady who can make a pack of dogs do her bidding, was totally shocked at how disrespectful my horse was in that round pen session. It was clear even to me that Kadeen thought he was hot stuff and didn’t need to do what he was asked to do.
The addition of Finn
I came home from that “A-ha!” weekend and told my trainer what I had learned. From that day forward I “raised the bar” with Kadeen and our relationship has been so much better ever since. Now I have a new horse, a 7-year-old half-Arabian, half-QH/Thoroughbred gelding named Finn. I bought him late last summer. However, he didn’t get much work this past winter as we had a very cold winter here in Kansas. I have a lot of work to do with him to get our relationship to where it needs to be. More on that in the next blog…