Thinking like a horse causes us to see that a horse’s desire for companionship stems from survival, not compassion. As a prey animal to be alone is to be vulnerable.
In people friendships, there’s a give and take – a time to serve and a time to receive. A time to take the initiative and a time to selflessly allow the other to make the decision.
In the equine world it is lead or be led. Life is good when there’s a stable hierarchy. The sentinel or Alpha horse calls the shots, deciding when it’s time to eat, time to change location and time to run from danger. If humans are going to ride, groom or transport a horse, we’re the Alpha. Nothing messes with a horse’s mind more than letting him “lead the way”.
Suggestions to take the leadership role:
- Be clear in your body language. Be readable in all your cues. Horse show nerves cause us to deliver mousy signals. We’re distracted and our legs and hands send mixed messages. In the absence of leadership your horse will fill the void.
- Guard your personal space. Periodically ask your horse to defer to you by yielding his personal space. Back your horse up from time to time when you’re leading your horse around the show grounds. Transitions and leg yielding under saddle are small ways to confirm your leadership role. I slip moments of collection or half halts into every trip in the show ring – periodically connecting the horse to me.
- Be the decision maker all the time – how deep are we going to ride into this corner? What length of stride to I want to trot? Where do I want my horse to face when I mount? How fast do I want to walk back to the barn? Unauthorized decisions must be methodically corrected or they’ll multiply and end up in a contest of wills.
- Keep emotions out of the picture. Any discipline is swift, appropriate and over within a second. Alpha horses don’t hold grudges.