Written by  2013-12-04

Human manners

(3 votes)
Human manners 
Many horse trainers' website or book is full with the concept of 'horse manners towards humans' and how to teach them. But what about human manners towards the horse?
I find time and time again that young horses who are brought up by social horses (with that I mean horses who know and practise horse language and values) actually have impeccable manners. Both towards horses and human in fact. When I go to meet young horses in their herd I mostly find nothing but curious politeness. Most of the time they check me out from a distance until I actually invite them to come closer. So what happens? When do polite youngsters develop to pushy and so called dominant young horses? I often see it happening. And sadly it often starts with people trying to teach a horse what they call 'manners'. People simply come in to the herd's place and walk deliberately at the chosen youngster. When he runs for it they chase him and finally when they catch him, he's is tied up and hold close, his movement restricted. What happens next is that the youngster's space is invaded without invitation and he is touched all over his body without his consent and probably without no clue as to the meaning of it all. Now I do not know about you, but when someone comes into my space uninvited I try to move away and explain to the person in a polite manner that I do not wish him so close. But if that person prevents me from moving away and starts touching me I feel I have no choice then to try and push him away from me. Now let that often be exactly what a so called 'pushy horse' is doing to his human space invaders. I can not stress out enough, time and time again, that if you desire your horse to show you certain behaviour, you first have to show it to your horse yourself.
Let's say you are teaching a class of human teenagers and you tell them to eat healthy, do not drink and smoke and go to bed early. Would they in any way be inclined to do this, if you yourself give absolutely the opposite example? What about your boss telling you off for being late, while he himself is late all the time?
Which brings me back to the 'manners part', humans often say they are teaching horses. Is it 'being mannered', if you let someone touch you all over and push you around at all times? Or is that total obedience? I think the latter. People often seem to want absolute obedience from their horses and call this absolute obedience 'manners'. If you ask people why they want absolute obedience they often can't really explain it. 'Because that is how it's done' or 'Else he will become dangerous'. But why is it done? And was he dangerous before you started his training? The answers usually are "I don't know" and "No, he wasn't at all, he was actually very sweet and pleasant". The reason I think people want complete obedience is because they then can predict their horse's behaviour, for in fact, they have fear for their horse's reactions, which, in all fairness could harm us tiny humans. So no wrong in wanting to predict the horse's behaviour. I used to have that too, and still have it in fact. And with demanding obedience you can up to a certain level, predict the behaviour of the horse. That is, until the moment a horse is no longer able to obey out of sheer self-preservation. For what we humans often do not understand is the illogical and sometimes harmful things we demand of our horses. See it as keeping your hand to close to the fire, no matter how much will you have to keep it there, your instinct will register the harm and take over. Before realising it, you'll have taken your hand away from the heat. This is what happens often with horses under human demand. And it regularly comes to complete surprise to the human because the horse was completely obedient seconds before. I have had my fair share of that in the past, believe me. Just like everyone else. But then my way of interacting with horses started to chance. And with that the way they interacted with me changed. It wasn't for this morning when I woke up very sudden and the very thing you are reading now hit me! I personally do not need obedience any more to be able to predict horse behaviour. Why? Because I have been studying them being completely themselves, for the past 6 years! 6 years is in fact not even a long time, so this is yet the beginning. How will my understanding of this sentient and intellectual beings evolve in 10 or 20 more years to come? How exciting this thought is. So this is the message I bring in this brainwave that sprouted from my brain while waking suddenly this morning: To obtain quiet, pleasant and safe interaction between horse and human and visa versa, study the horse. Now with studying the horse I do not mean study horses while giving demands and seeing them being carried out. Would one understand normal basic human behaviour while studying soldiers during training for instance? To study basic human behaviour we have to study normal basic humans interacting and free will based acting, in normal basic every day human affairs. The same goes for horses. Watch them, study them, film them, photograph them, draw them, dream them, write and think about them. The result will be that you will be able to predict their behaviour in ways you did not hold possible. The beauty of this lies even more in the fact that, with this understanding and predictability, one can start acting in a certain way towards a horse while 'knowing the outcome'. In fact very much the same way humans and horses act amongst their own species. You know your have to be friendly, look at one, smile and give a hand to set of a pleasant conversation, don't you? That is because you have learned to predict human behaviour. So, if you want a horse not to be pushy but polite, start by not being pushy but polite yourself.
For the start of a friendly conversation with a horse:
Say 'hi' and introduce yourself according horse politeness. Makes sense, doesn't it?
Copyright Josepha Guillaume


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