Wednesday, March 30, 2011
My name is: Bond, James Bond, I have no leadership skills, but I have been told that I have a great herd mentality when I am among something other than man. The only thing I have learned is that it can be very dangerous and get me into a lot of trouble.
Working with wild horses has been a privilege and an honor in many ways and it has surely been a learning experience to say the least. If I have learned priceless knowledge of the wild horses, in the wild as well as in the private then I have most certainly learned ten times that about the culture they have created. I have kept an open mind, as one should about the ideas, interpretations, myths, legends and approaches to handling and training the “wild ones”.
Recently I have been working on the issue of bonding, leadership and the idea of herd mentality between the people who own a wild horse, train a wild horse and those who no nothing about either. I am not claiming to be an expert on horses born in the wild or even horses born in the private for that matter, but I have been working with horses since I was able to walk and I have had the fortunate life to experience a lot of different horses and disciplines as well as training all over this country. One thing I can speak very passionately about is the idea that we must communicate with a horse as if we, ourselves are horses, that we must allow a horse to operate on its terms as if we want to be accepted into their herd or into their space. I find this to be a dangerous and misleading approach to the safety and enjoyment of man and beast. This is something I have noticed more within the wild horse owners than anywhere else. To think that we must make a horse our very own and that it must become one with us is a way of saying “mine, mine, mine”. It is a selfish act of manipulating a horse into reacting in a way that is most likely confusing to its very nature. A horse looks for leadership and guidance (training) from whomever might be the fortunate one to take on the task. If it was something other than that, we would be sending our horses to “bonders” or better yet we would simply turn our horses out into herds and let the lead mare train it, or to the other extreme, invade their territory and see how they take to training us.
Why must we complicate things for the horses, trainers and owners of the horses? I feel frustration for the trainer who takes a horse for 30, 60 or even 90 days and all they hear after the fact is “my horse will not bond with me” or “my horse will only listen to you”. I feel frustration for the horse, who only knows to look for guidance, discipline, routine and the bare necessities to survive. If we must “bond” with our horses, it should be through hard work, interaction and possibly spending time with someone else’s horses other than your own. Study different horses, learn the way horses interact with other horses and then learn how they interact with people. A well started horse does not need to bond, only move on from one person to the next. We have to mature and grow up and swallow the fact that a horse is an animal and a large one at that. We must not be so arrogant as to think that we are equal to a horse. We have to have the attitude that we can outweigh the horse,and in a sensitive meaning of the phrase:that we are larger than the horse. The horse will always be more majestic, more historic, more heroic and more mystical than any human can ever be, so treat it with the utmost respect and honor. We must not seek approval from a horse, we must earn it. Hard work, patience and humility are the best start to earning the approval of our horse.
A horse is not a guard dog, but a herd animal. To be your horse’s human is a dangerous situation for those around you who are not part of your horses herd. I recently read where a woman was bragging about how her wild horse was protective of her and would pin its ears and chase other people away from her……..I would like to say that this is not something to brag about at all. Will this horse begin to become too fond of its human; will it see her as a suitable mate? The horse learns what we teach it or what we allow it to learn. The greatest creature of habit can become the most unruly.
It is purely our responsibility to handle the situation of an ill mannered horse
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Unfortunately, in this modern day we horsemen and horsewomen have to find a way to relate to a society which is born afoot.
This has spawned a new “horse age”, new breed of horse culture and a new breed of horse trainer. There once was a time in which there was no barrier between an artist and his art: there was a time when a horseman did not have to try, he simply picked up the reins and began to ride his horse. A painter would simply pick up his brush and begin to paint his canvas. The horseman was natural in the saddle and what he did with his horse was extraordinary and done with great ease. The painter pushed against the canvas, looked deeply into the work and produced a masterpiece. Between the two, no words spoken, no explanation given, no “how to” book read, simply what came naturally and honestly.
Rarely in this day and age is the virtue of frankness appreciated in the horse industry. We have to be careful of how we talk about horses, how we tell our clients and onlookers the issues regarding how someone else trained their horse or the problems their horse might have. We have to be sensitive to the persona society has placed on the horse and those who have found a way of capitalizing not only on the horses, but on the people as well. There was a time when we could actually tell someone they had a bad horse or the horse is not right for you. Now we have to tell people that the horse has people problems. Our society will allow a doctor to diagnose a child as simply a bad kid, but we have to be so careful as to tell someone a horse is bad. We have created ways around this. Horse training has become an industry of catch phrases and one- liners, and those are the methods of how we get around the sources of real problems and we simply bury them with happy moments and short pleasures. Horse trainers have become method actors and the round pen has become their stage, along with the main prop, our horses. Method is the key word with today’s training, no longer is it hard work and perseverance, but step by step, how to videos and books and tools. Yes, people need help with their horses and yes, there is a need for education, but with all of the new age training, we have begun to squeeze out those born with the quiet natural ability to train a horse. The public will send a horse to training with someone holding a graduation certificate over someone holding their father’s or grandfather’s bridle.
We have given up the splendid chance to be silent:
We are moving away from the days of training a horse by doing and becoming a society of training by talking. A horse might hear our voice but they remember our hands and our legs and the feel of us showing them instead of telling them. If we must also train the owner of the horse, I do believe we should do it the same way. Let the owner sit on their own horse, but show them what to do. If you have to stand by your client and use your hand to push their leg into the horse, do it! Grab their hands with yours. We can get on a horse and do something, but real success comes from the owner being able to do that very same thing. Expect more from your horse and from your client. Remember, it is all about feel and being physical. A body builder does not talk to his muscles, he works them. I believe, we must reconnect with the horse and the horse owner. No more smoke and mirrors, no more editing and splicing, no more catchy one-liners.