Negative and Positive Leadership Behavior between Horses and Humans

Positive leadership behavior is using leadership that a horse would appreciate and would be willing to accept. Positive leadership behavior would be to ask and not to expect and to encourage if you are not getting what you want, and then, if you are not getting what you want, change the subject to something that would bring relaxation, trust and harmony to the horse. A good rule of thumb is to train in short windows of time with lots of pause at liberty or on a loose line. As horse owners, we need to shape a horse’s behavior to fit in harmony with us because of practical reasons and keep their pecking order personalities social and respectful. We need to set an example for our horse in the kind of leadership that we would like him to offer us. This way, the horse learns to treat us exactly like we treat him in regards to leadership. This creates a 50/50 partnership, with the exception that we are the ultimate leaders of our horse because we are setting leadership by example. Captivity requires leadership.

Even very fearful horses can become pushy. At this time of Marilynne’s training, she has become pushy and when she pushes she feels safe and secure with me. So I allow her lots of that, so she can build more confidence around people. When I choose to stop her pushiness, even being very gentle, she becomes again very frightened when she must turn the leadership role back to me. She has learned in life that when humans lead they can become dangerous.

Remember that torture is not determined by our standards but by what the horse feels. As trainers and owners, we need to be able to read when this happens so we can adjust our leadership to work best for us and to be inviting. If you are being persistent and the horse is not willing, you are in danger of stepping into negative dominant behavior in your leadership.

That being said, I also must get Marilynne to experience her fears through pressuring her so she can see that nothing bad will happen; but I keep it to personal space issues only and very short sessions with lots of fun. For her, fun is sharing space and eating. I must allow her this fear. It is important not to edge my way around her fears because it can cause a horse to get worse. I put pressure on her in short windows of time that we share together, because it gives her a chance to see that she does not need to be fearful. By my not responding to her fears, I give her the chance to discover that they have no reason to exist. My students often times tiptoe around their fearful horses to much creating a horse that becomes even shyer.

Marilynne by my behavior learns that I cannot be controlled by her paranoia. As our relationship has grown, Marilynne has finally become a proper nuisance for me giving me the opportunity to enforce my leadership. Waiting for Marilynne to get comfortable, enough to be rude, lets me shape her behavior in a way that she can understand.

When I am feeding her grain, which took some time for me to get her to feel safe eating from my hand, I allow her to push me. She will try to push me out of her way to put her head into the bucket. I push back but I allow her to win. In these moments, she is not afraid. This is very important. She gets to experience her personal power and when I feel she is strong enough mentally, I ask her to back off and leave my personal space. I choose the time to ask her to leave when she has become excessively pushy.

I am very cautious however only to push her just enough to get her to leave. I approach her slowly on this matter. She has a tipping point that goes from being very pushy to freaking out, running away from me in sheer terror. I have to let her experience this.

Every time she returns I can see her becoming more comfortable with the interactions, we share. She is learning that my leadership has no monstrous behavior to follow.

Yesterday she was comfortable enough for me to lunge her in her paddock with a reed in my hand and even touch her body with it. She is frightened in this Ritual but not enough to lose control or to lose her connection with me. Second by second she is getting more comfortable.

A note to the class, I will be offering the film of me free lounging Maralyinne in her paddock, including clips of pushing me around to show how her pushing me causes her to feel safe.

On an earlier video, I speak of the Saying Hello Ritual that I am practicing with Marilynne, where she will not stand and allow me to walk up to her. She will either run away or walk up to me. Both of these reactions are a way for her to cope with intimacy. When she walks up to me, she feels her personal power, but when asked to stand and l walk up to her, she feels threatened. And that is where we are today.

This is a very different experience to the one I had with Lucero, the pushy little colt, I had during the last Insider Circle Class, so I hope you are learning a lot from the journey Marilynne and I are making together. Does any of it ring true for you?

Thank you all for your comments! I am glad you are enjoying Marilynne's journey. Many of you have commented about the videos I speak of in many of my blog posts. To clarify, Marilynne’s journey is part of the curriculum for the Insiders Circle and the companion In A Box program. My students have exclusive access to Marilynne’s day-to-day progress as part of these programs. Marilynne’s journey with the Waterhole Rituals will be offered for sale in a few months to the public.

I would like to encourage everyone to take the next course that we will be offering in the late summer. I know you would really benefit from the guidance along with the DVDs that we will be releasing to the next class.

Till next week

Carolyn.