‘Respect’ is a bit of a buzz word in the equestrian and horsemanship industry, and in my opinion, it’s a word that is often misconstrued, and can mean very different things depending on which trainer you talk to.
The dictionary definition is; 1. ‘a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements’ *or* 2. due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others’
For me, number 2 is the most integral when communicating with other living beings, horse, human, or otherwise.
Often, you will hear some trainers, talking about ‘getting a horses respect’.
There are a few trainers across the globe who may mean it in a potentially unpleasant way, some who mean it in the way I’m talking about in this blog, and others who don’t quite communicate how they mean it.
For instance, I recently saw a video on a social media platform that got my goat a little, showing ‘Signs Your Horse is Disrespecting You’, detailing things such as a horse throwing his head up when being haltered, or showing distaste at having a girth tightened. Many of the things listed in that video were signs that the horse may actually be in some discomfort, and/or adequate communications lines were not present, and not, in fact, ‘disrespect’ from the horse.
Horses are wonderful, amazing creatures, capable of learning and achieving incredible things, and ultimately, unless there is something very neurologically or hormonally wrong (or they’ve had a terrible human experience at some point in their lives) they are not out to get us, they are not looking to ‘disrespect’ us, they are simply responding to their environment, the communication they are receiving, and whether or not their needs are being met.
For me, all relationships, across all species, should be based on MUTUAL respect and understanding, with a dash of empathy thrown in the mix also. Gaining respect through dominance, does not result in a solid foundation with horse or human, and can result in mistrust, stress, anxiety, ‘shutting down’ and inconsistent results.
So, what about – rather than focusing on gaining a horse’s respect, we worked on establishing clear, consistent communication, and look instead, to gain their TRUST, and their FOCUS.
What about – in moments of so-called ‘disrespectful’ behavior, we looked at the bigger picture, and asked WHY it was happening? Pain? Discomfort? Lack of understanding? Basic Needs not being met? Feeding routine?
Often, there is a reason for the behavior, and it is up to us humans, to respect our horses enough, to look into why, and how, we can help them.
Approaching your relationship with your horse in this manner, will result in deeper understanding, better communication, connection, and happiness and relaxation for all involved., with zero drama.
Sounds like the perfect relationship to me…!
What does respect mean to you? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Over and Out!