Hello, and welcome back to the blog! Today, I am going to be discussing the horse and human relationship and how defining what kind of relationship you want with your horse will help you in your training.
I have been considering my relationship with Bryni recently and ‘Relationship Building’ is literally a part of my tagline on this blog. But, what do I mean by relationship building and where do we start with that?
So what is a relationship?
Let’s break it down to the basics. A relationship is “the way in which two or more people or things are connected” (Oxford Dictionary). I think the keyword in this definition is connected. Doesn’t that sound lovely? To be connected with your horse? But how?
Relationships are complex. There are certain expectations in place and these expectations vary in accordance with who the relationship is between.
There is a huge variety of types of relationship you could think about when considering what you want from your horse. When you think about ‘how can I bond with my horse?’, ‘how can I get my horse to trust me?’ or ‘how can I get a better bond with my horse?’, it all comes down to the relationship you have. It is the foundation, the base, for everything else. And if it is rocky or uncertain, it is likely to be a rocky road.
Below are some different types of relationship you could have with your horse. Everyone is different and I have placed my perspective on these below. You may disagree and feel that one of them fits your personality more, and that is ok. All relationships are different and each one of these relationships can still form a base of understanding for your horse.
The key to building a relationship is consistency, so whichever one you choose, be consistent with it.
Types of relationship
a boss/ employee relationship
This gives the idea that someone is in charge, and someone has to do what the other one says and is paid for it in some way. This type of relationship is advocated widely in the horse world as if we look at the hierarchy in a herd, there are dominant horses and there are submissive horses. One gets to tell the other what to do and they do it. You’ll hear people say ‘be the boss’ or ‘you need to boss him’ and it is not necessarily a bad thing- people can have very good, respectful relationships with their boss, but is it the best way? Could you be ignoring something if you are just focused on ‘being the boss’?
While this does make sense in relation to the hierarchy and dominant/submissive context of a herd, personally for me, I feel it is not the kind of relationship that resonates with me and my horse.
This sounds sweet. Being a parent to your horse gives the impression of caring for and looking after the horse. It still gives off a similar vibe to above in that one party is still in the position of power. However, it seems less dominating than the boss/employee relationship.
While looking after, keeping your horse safe and caring for them is important, I feel this still doesn’t quite sum up the kind of relationship I would want with my horse, though it is definitely closer.
A friend is “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection” (Oxford Dictionary). This sounds like it fits nicely. It is important to have a bond with mutual affection and respect. I like that ‘friend’ implies more equal terms and I like the idea of a ‘bond’ because ultimately, I want to have a strong and fulfilling bond with my horse.
I would certainly want to have a relationship with this kind of base. It highlights the similarities between horses and humans in that we both like to know where we stand, we like to be listened to and we like to feel that we are valued on the same level as the other person. A friendship would not work otherwise, and I guess I do see my horses as friends, as odd as that sounds.
A partner is ‘a pair of people engaged together in the same activity’. I like this definition also. The word ‘engaged’ implies that there is motivation and a common enjoyment between both parties. It is accurate too when we are training horses, that we are engaged in the same activity.
It creates a sense of unity between both horse and human, with the idea that we are in it together. There is also a sense of enjoyment and choice inserted with the idea of a partner.
What is the vision of BBequines on Relationship Building?
When I refer to ‘Relationship Building’ here at BBequines, I mean building a relationship that connects horse and human in a similar way that friends and partners are connected. I think it is important to have a base of mutual trust, respect and an openness to listen to the other party as we carry out our shared experiences. Many issues with horses arise because we forget to listen. When we start listening, suddenly, we are valuing the messages we are being sent. We would not continue to push a friend if they were really unsure or didn’t understand but all too often we set a goal, expect the horse to reach it and forget to listen along the way. Relationship building is about a journey and if we don’t listen, we’ll never get to where we want to be.
What kind of relationship do you have with your horse? What kind of relationship do you want with your horse? Let me know in the comments below or over on my instagram @bbequines.