”I’ve had horses all my life”, the most regressive phrase in horse keeping and training

Believe it or not, the phrase “I’ve had horses all my life” or “I have been around horses 20+ years” or any variation on that theme is in no way a qualification. 

In many cases it also does not indicate an understanding of what horses need from an ethological perspective.  It often doesn’t even suggest any real understanding of horse behaviour or emotions. This piece is inspired by a lovely lady, a very traditional lady, she’s had horses all her life, she looks after her horses well, she cares for them, she calls the vet, she brushes them and cleans their tack.   

Their beds are kept clean and deep, they get their supplements every day.  She is a good horse owner.  She keeps them warm, she fills their bellies, they are pristine.  She even plays with her horses in the field.  She calls it bonding time. But in that play what she fails to see is that while she might be playing, what her horses are feeling is not the carefree joy of true species-specific play.  

What they are thinking and feeling is “why the hell is mum chasing us and waving the headcollar around, this is scary, why is she doing this?” They run from her, she thinks they are running WITH her.   They have their ears back and look frustrated. She thinks they are listening to her voice.  She stops chasing and they stop running, it’s a relief.  Thank goodness that’s over. She had fun, they did not. She is not a bad lady.  She is a good lady who simply doesn’t know that her horse’s are not having fun when she does this.   

She has been around horses all her life.   But nobody ever taught her what a conflicted horse looks like, what a frustrated horse looks like.   Nobody ever explained that horses don’t really play with humans the same way they do with horses.   Nobody ever stopped a riding lesson because her pony looked anxious when she was a kid.  Nobody ever said, “your horse isn’t enjoying this. I think you should get off and walk him home.”   Nobody at her natural horsemanship demo said the horse was being driven away from her through fear and that she was the one scaring him.   

She just didn’t know because nobody ever told her. If you are that lady or someone like her you can find out more about what horses really enjoy in life by following our page for more Equine Education or read this more detailed blog The 10 Truths of Force Free Training for Horses which covers not only what training horses need to feel happy but what life should look life in more general terms: Ten Truths About Force Free Horse Training  As always if you have a question you can drop it in the comments or inbox us. Thank you.

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