When you have a life with horses – it really is quite incredibly different to that of having a household pet!
Dedication is essential. If you’re venturing into the wonderful world of horse ownership, it’s important to understand that 95% of having a horse of your own, is all about caring for one!
Riding is a small and wonderful addition to it, but very much a tiny portion of the equine experience. It is a life style. Not a simple and straightforward hobby. But, there really is nothing quite so special as the bond that grows between you and your horse. The hard work, the worry, the whatever the weather parts, add up to create a world that as soon as you enter it, feels extremely precious.
A horsey life is a commitment. But rather like a marriage – if your whole heart is in love, then it becomes something to cherish and have and to hold for always – there will be ups and downs, but overall it will be the best journey of all.
I write this today because having been around horses and had my very own for over ten years, I’ve seen and learnt a lot from the good, the bad and the very bad, right back to the good again. I’ve shared a little about the new additions to my herd on my blog pages, and as expected we have experienced some eventful times just recently!!
Horses are beautiful creatures, loyal and willing, devoted partners – however they can have their moments, and in the early stages of horsemanship and bringing one into your own life, you have to be prepared for a bumpy start to the relationship. It will happen!
Horses instinctive natures and minds, operate in such a way that they need a clear and consistent idea of their ‘place’ with you. In the wild they require leadership within their herd, for safety, protection and companionship. They need a leader for security.
If the horse finds that it does not know who its leader is, or what’s expected, behaviour problems will begin to emerge, as the horse tries to take the roll of leader upon himself – this is not safe in domestication, as the horse has evolved to rely on us for its essential care. They need us to take our position as their protector – just like the herd leader would. Instinctively and naturally they require this.
Bullying and dominance and the ‘who’s boss’ attitude are not the key to a happy and lasting relationship, rather, respect and empathy whilst remaining strong and consistent are important qualities that a horse will seek out for itself. Your horse is on the same side as you, however the lines must remain un blurred as to who makes the decisions and who listens to them. You have to ask the right questions, so your horse understands, and then the light at the end of the question, is that your horse chooses to answer because he wants to – not because he has to.
Rather by accident, I discovered a couple of days ago that I had, after all these years, developed my horsemanship skills enough to make a difference to a horse who had decided he wanted to be the leader. I had to be careful not to crush his spirit, but equally I had to make it clear that dangerous behaviour is not acceptable. I pulled from my memory bank of challenging equine encounters, a plan. Then amongst the wild flowers in my favourite welly boots (Sealand – perfect for lots of mud!) this confused horse who wasn’t really sure what he should be doing with himself, chose to listen to my firm direction. As I softened my approach and as he he yielded to my requests, I felt something that I struggle to feel on a daily basis – confidence. I was in the moment. Self doubt was not needed here. This horse needed me to let go, and take charge so that he could feel safe. And together we both ended up feeling safe within ourselves and the world around us.
I am not really sure I know of any ‘hobby’ that teachers this kind of strength of self. But it’s during times like this that, I am forever grateful I chose a life with horses. Even if it’s quite by accident, they are always showing me there is more to me than my small frame and worried mind.