Horses Don't Act!!!

~by Jodi Denning

I've been thinking about how to try to express something that I consider to have been a very important piece of the puzzle for me in my efforts to try and understand horses.

A horse's actions are always a true and accurate representation of EXACTLY what that horse is thinking and feeling at any given moment. In other words, a horse's actions are always honest. Horses don't act. If a horse is "acting" afraid, he IS afraid. If a horse is "acting" like he doesn't understand, he DOESN'T understand.

Some horses can just accept a given situation and learn to deal with it, even when it is less than ideal. Some horses can't seem to do that as easily, and they get worried, they get confused, or they get frustrated. For the horses that get frustrated, some of them will express that frustration with behaviors that most of us don't care for. Sometimes this is when we begin to get the idea there may be a problem - but the problem has probably been brewing for some time.

I realize some people would probably argue with me about a horse's actions always being honest, but that is what I have come to believe. Most of the time IMO it seems to typically boil down to a few options: the horse is either doing what he has been taught is perfectly acceptable to do, the horse doesn't understand or is confused, the horse is afraid, or the horse is frustrated.

It has really helped me to begin to understand this concept, and to try to apply it. It is SO easy to let our emotions get in the way. It is SO easy to think our horse is *deliberately* NOT doing something we want (or *deliberately* DOING something we don't want). In some cases it is even easy to feel like our horse is "out to get us", or trying to make us look bad. But over the last few years I have come to realize that simply isn't the case at all.

Fortunately for all of us, horses think like horses... and they will never think like people. So our task is to learn and understand how THEY think so we can help them. So IMO we are SO very lucky that the horse's actions are always a true and accurate representation of what the horse is feeling and thinking. If we can learn to believe what they are trying to tell us, and accept it as THEIR truth (whether or not that truth makes much sense to us), we have taken a huge step towards improving our horsemanship.

This is a pretty hard thing to do - or at least it has been for me. It sure can be easy to fall back into old habits and blame the horse for my lack of understanding and my inability to teach the horse what I'm trying to teach him. But is it easier now than it was a year ago? Yep! Will it be easier a year from now than it is today? I sure hope so! Will I ever really be able to apply this in every situation, with every horse, every time? I seriously doubt it, but I'm sure going to try! ;-) Mistakes are allowed, because that's how we learn!

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