Not a frequently used word when it comes to our horses, more common we hear
‘Just get on him’
‘Make him do it’
‘Tell him to suck it up’
And truth be known, there are probably many things that our horses might ‘prefer’ if we didn’t do - veterinary treatments, worming, and sometimes riding and saddling. But just because we are going to move on and do something anyway, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to help a horse become happier about something, listen to his concerns, and even help him change his mind about something.
Take this little guy. I’ve been working with him and his owner to help get them working together as a team, and confident with each other. Over the course of a couple of clinics we found a few things that Dusty was bothered by, one of which was the saddling process. But he didn’t show ‘bad behavior’ when it came to saddling - he didn’t do anything at all - he ‘zoned out’ and disconnected from the process.
At the basic level this is a concern to me from a safety perspective - if a horse is disconnected from what you are doing, then they can ‘come to’ at any moment and react badly. But from a connection perspective, I don’t want my horse feeling like they need to ‘disconnect’ from what we are doing, in order to cope with it. I’m not familiar on his history so I can’t explain why he chooses this mechanism to cope, and there are many reasons this could happen.
So we started working around consent - asking him permission to put the saddle on. Now many of you might be thinking ‘of course he isn’t going to want the saddle on’ and this could be true, but the process of simply having this conversation can completely change a horses outlook on life. He goes from “do whatever you want, you are going to anyway” (a form of learned helplessness) to “oh, we get to talk about this, can I have a look please” (curiosity and interest).
With this guy we had to go waaaay back to the beginning and simply wait, hold space and ask him to even look at the saddle. Yes look.
This is a process I go through with all of the colt starts or restarts that I do.
Over time we have slowly progressed to looking, touching, feeling, consent to put saddle on, to the rider. We are essentially helping him change his mind from ‘this sucks, people suck’ to hmm maybe this is interesting.
Consent isn’t just a conversation we should be having with our kids. It’s one we should be having with our horses
Train with us
July 9 & 10 - Vaquero/ Hackamore clinic, Glenreagh
July 16 & 17 2 day clinic Fernleigh, NSW
July 30 & 31 - Liberty clinic, Hunter region NSW
August 18 - 27 Cadillac horse course 10 days, Glenreagh