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Liberty with a human may be a traumatic experience for a horse that has been denied the opportunity to live as one. This is the very first thing that Pip showed me. I had taken her into a large jumping arena, just the two of us, on our first day together. When I removed all of the tack, she was seized by an overriding panic which caused her to frantically rush up and down the fence line. No contact with her was possible and hence no communication.

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Avoiding the boss mentality has really been a challenge to me. When I get an idea and am ready to implement it, I tend to want to act on it straightaway. It has to happen and it has to happen now. The fact that there is a live animal objecting to this, is not an issue to which I am really keen on devoting a lot of time and energy. This used to be my approach and it is something that Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling also recognised in me. How I have tried to deal with it is described below.

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In their own unique way horses “speak” and have been “speaking” to humans for centuries, yet most have chosen not to “listen” to them. Instead, humans have insisted on speaking rather than listening, on telling horses what to do or not to, how to do or not do it and when. And humans have done so not only with their voice but also with an array of metal, leather and plastic devices many of which would not look out of place in a sadomasochistic dungeon or a torture chamber of the Spanish Inquisition. Indeed, the devices which humans use on horses, such as bits, bridles, spurs, metal studs (a.k.a. “horseshoes”), restraints, leads, chains, whips and the like are so harsh as to have inspired an entire niche form of sexual BDSM practice known as “ponyplay”. And these humans do this, not because they are desperate to eke out a living, but largely for pleasure, status, profit or a combination of such pursuits. I used to be just such a human until ten years ago I chose to listen to horses speak. Continue Reading »

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So when you walk into the field that your horse knows as home, do they come to you unasked? Perhaps they come to you when you call? And does your horse then walk freely with you to the gate? So if your horse chooses not to come to you, does this say something about your leadership (or lack of it)? Or does it say more about your horse’s desire to follow you? But does not the one imply the other, that by definition a leader has a follower? Perhaps. Yet should your horse choose to follow you, does that not make you your horse’s leader? Really? Or is there perhaps something more to following than simply a passive acceptance of “leadership”? Could it be that horses have mastered the art of followership and that it is also through this that we have so much to learn from them? Continue Reading »

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“You have a leadership problem with your horse. Your horse does not recognise you as a leader.” Your trainer may have said this to you on occasion or something similar to it. As a result, you may have shrunk into your shell and seized the first opportunity to slink off quietly to find a quiet corner in which to lick your wounds or rap yourself on the knuckles for failing to be a leader to your horse. But what does this mean, “being a leader to your horse”? Does it really mean what they tell us? That your horse needs to respect you and do what you want them to do? More importantly perhaps, we may want to ask ourselves if there is any sense in the concept of leadership in relation to horses and, if there is, to what extent it is meaningful and useful in our interaction with our equine friends. After all, if the concept of leadership in relation to horses serves no purpose, why use it? Continue Reading »

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