I attended a training clinic for horses this weekend as a stand-in for my friend who is recovering from foot surgery. She asked me to work with her young thoroughbred gelding ‘Baby’ during the morning session in which ground-work techniques were taught.
Baby, a green, sweet and highly intelligent fellow was as frustrated as I was when we were instructed to follow strict rules and procedures that demanded the horse to do what he/she was told. Establishing dominance over the horse was absolute. He kept asking “Why are we doing this? Are we having fun yet?” When I abandoned the instructor’s pressure to reach dominance and simply worked with Baby as a partner.. respecting his desire to work with me, not against me….we were able to immediately achieve success.
So much of training a horse (or any animal) is about listening to them, not getting stuck in the technique. It doesn’t matter how good the method may be, if it gets in the way of true communication, the only thing that is learned is control. And learning to control an animal is not learning to truly be with them. They do not seek to be controlled. They seek to be understood.