Mutual or Fearful Respect?


Mutual respect or fearful respect? Which is it for you; for your horse?

When teaching children we try to have patience and be clear in our instructions. We keep our voices soft, our eyes, soft and our hearts compassionate.

When teaching horses we see alot of bats, whips, flags, chasing round and round, angry faces, incongruent body languages … all in the name of ‘natural horsemanship’.

Let me tell you what happens when you’re trying to ‘train’ a horse using forceful equipment and language … (meaning mind body and heart language)

Horses are meant to remember every single flight or fight moment … that is, whatever cause them to feel as if they need to flee, jump away, startle away – they remember.


That’s just simply the way their survival system is formed.

We humans are much the same.

PTSD = Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

This occurs from those momentary flight or fight events.

Every flight or fight event for the horse is woven into the tapestry of the brain … forever.

This response actually triggers a chain response in the brain and body.

It’s a ‘whole body’ response.

Never forgotten.

When a horse apparently ‘succumbs’ to a scary thing and ‘submits’ to the human causing the scary thing, the horse embeds a PTSD moment into his brain .. forever. And now, forever, he’ll try to avoid that PTSD moment, in some manner, out of fear.

Because the horse submits some say now the horse is ‘respectful’ or some say now the horse is ‘desensitized’.

But somewhere, sometime, somehow down the line, the horse will have a PTSD recurrance moment that is unconsciously connected directly to the initial ‘training’ moments that cause the PTSD in the first place.

This is not ‘respect’ when a horse responds to a harsh cue with, what seemingly appears to be, a ‘correct response’.

This is fear based reaction.
This becomes a classically conditioned response of fear.

A horse moves out of the human’s way as a response to being swatted on the face or neck with a hard, rubber bat. A horse swings its butt around to face the human to avoid being kicked in the hindquarters or whipped. The horse moves sideways to avoid the sting of a crop on its side. The horse goes into the trailer to avoid the ‘punishment’ of not going into the trailer.

The list goes on.

The horse is ‘obeying commands’ but not out of respect.

He’s “obeying” out of fear. He is AVOIDING pain, discomfort, fear.

PTSD is a funny thing .. for humans and for horses. It can rear its ugly head with a totally uncontrollable response and do so ‘out of nowhere’.

Not something anyone wants when riding or working around horses.

Horses that TRULY respect the human will try like crazy to avoid stepping on the human, running the human over … and will try like crazy to please the human; to get the ‘right’ answer. The horse will be bright and alert and happily engaged with the human as he is with a friend of his own kind. He will try to figure out what is being asked and willingly stay with the human to find out the answer.

Just like humans, horses want to feel ‘good’. They will repeat behaviors and try to recreate situations that made them feel good in the past.

Positive reinforcement goes a long, long way in teaching children AND horses …

Being *rewarded* for a “correct” response vs. being “punished” for the “wrong” response.

Is that how we teach our children?

Is that how you teach your horse?

If you’d like to learn more about positive reinforcement and how to create and develop a life-long lasting PARTNERSHIP with your horse, simply ask me.

I will help you. I will help your horse and together, as a team, we’ll make it happen.