Why leadership frightens some

In teaching lessons, I got to meet a variety of people – mostly female -from very young children to senior citizens, who all had a love and fascination with horses. During that time, I also realized that our approach and relationship with horses is built upon how we deal with the people in our lives – and no matter how many lessons I give you, until you deal with The Elephant in the Room, nothing can help.

However, for whatever reason this “reality” is something every person will deny. Every person will say “that isn’t true for me” or “my explosive temper at work has nothing to do with why I excessively whip my horse” or “of course my children need me at all times, and I would ride if I could find the time” or “my childhood of neglect has nothing to do with why I collect too many animals.”

For example, one adult student I had was certainly a puzzle. On the surface she was successful and well adjusted, living in a nice home. Yet, every horse she would buy degenerated into the horse getting away with bloody murder, irregardless of how well trained they were before their arrival to her small farmette.

Once I started giving her lessons (instead of just a casual friendship), it became apparent that the relationships with her husband and two grown daughters was one of being stepped on, controlled, and treated like dirt. Her horses were just following suit.

We cannot divorce who we are from what we are when we work with our horses. When I listen and read Klaus Hempfling, I get the feeling he has this same frustration in trying to explain to his female clientele because he returns again and again to the authenticity of the horse.

While a girlfriend may just roll her eyes when you pick up the clothes your husband dumped all over the house, the horse will see and understand your place in the herd and treat you accordingly.

There’s a lot of junk out there about body language – meet the eyes of your horse – don’t meet the eyes of the horse – look at the hip – move here and do this… and though this may be valid – the paradox is that, in that in the long run, none of this is valid. Without knowing yourself, and being who you need to be, the horse-human relationship won’t be improving no matter what formuliac horse training, natural or otherwise, you follow.

People who are confident around their horses, move confidently.

People who are secure in who they are and what they expect, present an aura of competency and focus.

People who knows who they are (even with flaws) are a leader that a horse knows instinctively he can place his faith upon.

Horses have one goal in life – Survival. They do not put faith in leaders who will not spot and assess danger to the herd. People who deceive themselves and are not willing to examine their life, are completely unimportant to a horse.

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7 Responses to Why leadership frightens some

  1. Kate says:

    We bring our whole life to the horse, there can be no separation. Good post.

  2. Very insightful and interesting. I have heard of accounts in a somewhat similar direction concerning dogs; in particular, that a dog that is faced with a too weak human will see itself lacking a pack leader, try to assume the position (the job, after all, must be done by someone, and if that stupid human is not up to it…), and often take a turn for the worse personality-wise. One such account is by James Herriot, whose works likely are familiar to you.

    I have also made the personal experience that body language (in particular, confidence or lack thereof) can make a major difference in how I am perceived and treated by humans, even when I am otherwise doing or saying the same things.

    • horseideology says:

      Thanks Michael for visiting and posting…

      Yes, here in the states dog trainer Cesear Milan is controversial but if you watch his show, the clients that have major issues with their dogs are the ones who present themselves through conversation and body language as wavering, uncertain, confused and easily controlled individuals. Sad but true.

      It’s why training the animal to correct behavior will not help if the animal returns to the owner who has not changed.

      Oh yes, I first read James Herriot’s books when I was about 10 years old. I am far past that age now. 😉

      • A bit off topic, but: I read a number of Herriot’s books for pure entertainment at a similar age as you did, but revisiting them in my early thirties, I also found a considerable amount of insight into human behaviour that can be gleaned from the many anekdotes. All-in-all, they are actually more rewarding to the adult.

      • horseideology says:

        I will have to re-check into them myself. It’s amazing not only how animals give insight into our own behavior, but the very fact of those who do not see it, or deny it, is just as telling. Perhaps it is the “protest too much” idea.

  3. That is an interesting post, thank you.

    Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about why a horse doesn’t do as he is asked. (This is in the context of obstacles in the arena, where trust is required, not basic obedience to the aids.)

    Should a horse move unquestioning over an obstacle at the rider’s command? Or should he be encouraged to follow an instinct about the safety of the item? I’ve been in the situation where a horse’s intuition has saved me from a hazard that I hadn’t seen, and in the situation where a horse didn’t want to pass over something that I thought quite safe.

    Doru didn’t want to go through a stream of rather muddy water where he couldn’t see the bottom, and I could rather see why he acted that way. But for this he was criticised by the judges at that competition (which was supposed to measure trail riding skill!) for not entering a hazard blindly on command.

    Where is the boundary between doing as one is told and questioning the order? What is leadership in such a situation?

    • horseideology says:

      For me, obedience from a horse is a complicated issue.

      When it comes to my personal safety, I do expect unquestioning obedience such as a horse backing away from the gate; a horse not kicking me when I pick up a leg (that’s Z you!); no biting etc…

      Where it gets dicey is I want the horse to use their brain and judgement also. However, I do think that Hempfling would feel that when it came to the murky water, perhaps Doru should have looked to you and said “what do you think boss?” and if you said cross it, then yeah cross it.

      Also, of course what is trained for competition vs. what happens in real life has never been the same. The Competition Dressage riders vs. Classical Dressage war has been going on for at least 100 years.

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