'Be the alpha', 'Show him who is boss', 'Passive leader', 'Considerate leader'
...sheesh...Which am I supposed to be? Does my horse care which I am?
In my dictionary, I found 'guide' as a synonym for leader and 'domineer' as a synonym for boss. Some of the characteristics of each would be considerate/tyrannical, reliable/uncertain, consistent/unstable, loyal/selfish, humble/domineering.
These adjectives eventually become manifest in our interactions with whomever and whatever we come in contact. All that a person is comes first from thoughts. Then those thoughts become beliefs, which we speak...and habits, which we act out.
What does any of this have to do with how we interact with our horses? How do we transfer the positive 'guide/leader' philosophy so that our horses CHOOSE us to follow and look to? Which is more EFFECTIVE...to be the boss or the leader?
Whether they perceive us as a true leader or just the boss depends on how we present our thoughts to the horse, how we listen when that horse expresses his opinion on a matter, how we respond (rather than react) when that opinion doesn't coincide with ours. How we go about getting the horse to have the same thought we do.
Do we do whatever it takes, but not more than it takes? And do we really believe that it often will take much less than we go in with?
I have always appreciated Bill Dorrance's thought...'make the right thing obvious'. It seems to be so easy for most of us to do the 'make the wrong thing difficult' part...but how easy do we make the right thing? Is it just a little bit easier? Wouldn't that be like making the horse choose between the rock and the hard place?
A true horseman/woman will consider the horse's point of view before expecting him to consider their's. They work with the horse from the inside out. They are not concerned with 'painting behaviors on the outside'...the outside behaviors leave the inside worried and stressed. And most of all, they look in the mirror rather than look at the horse as being 'wrong'.
One of Mark Rashid's sayings that I find awesome to contemplate, but very difficult to live..."Training is NOT about looking for the bad and correcting it. Training IS about looking for the good and building on it".
That pretty much leaves out any room for confrontational thinking and actions. It keeps both horse and human in a win/win frame of mind with no defensiveness created. It keeps the horse feeling safe, supported and motivated...all responsibilities shouldered by a good leader.
A good leader or guide makes very clear the direction to go. If we are consistent in what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable, then they will learn to trust us...the ground rules won't be changed all the time and at our whim.
Trust is a process, not an event...so over time, with our consistency, they will learn they can 'let down' because there won't be any sudden surprises.
In talking about his horse, sandy, and also about a student's horse, Harry Whitney once said something that really made a light go on for me. "Not all horses are looking for a leader. However, all horses will follow a good leader". That got me to thinking about what I have had many people tell me about their horses.
I'm not sure why, but it seems like a lot of folks think they have horses like that. Actually, there are very few with that innate confidence. Most ARE looking for a leader, but we humans often have such difficulty being consistent and understanding what the horse is looking for and needs, that he just gives up and figures he has to look out for himself. Then we have a tendency to say 'he is taking over' or 'he is spoiled' or 'he is being disrespectful' when in reality, we have given him no other option!!!
In the final analysis, isn't what appeals to any creature...whether with 2 legs or 4 legs... a guide/leader who is considerate, motivates, protects and is humble enough to laugh at him/herself?!
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