There is no such thing as a 'naughty' horse!

Written by Tuesday, 15 November 2016 12:09

Every horse and pony displays little quirks and reactions that we construct into a personality. We call some horses ‘cheeky’, some ‘pushy’ and some ‘stubborn’, but have you considered that these labels are actually our way of trying to understand horses in human terms? So, when our horses demonstrate what we term 'unwanted behaviour', are they really being naughty, trying it on, thinking they've got the better of us, or is this an example of miscommunication between horse and human handler? Fundamentally, we need to ask ourselves whether or not horses are even capable of deliberately misbehaving…

Equine behaviourist, Beth Gibbons says that there is no such thing as a ‘naughty’ horse or pony, and they cannot ‘deliberately plot and deceitfully plan to get the better of their owners’.  Unfortunately though, as  humans, we find it difficult to avoid interpreting horse behaviour in our own terms, and very often take what they do very personally! However, describing their behaviour from our own human perspective is unhelpful and leads to a breakdown in communication.

You must have heard the term, 'it's not all about you!', Well in a similar way we must remember to separate ourselves from our horse’s behaviour because it is never about them deliberately setting out to to disobey or upset us but because they are reacting to a situation according to their own equine instincts. It takes quite a bit of effort, but if we stop labelling their behaviour in human terms and avoid taking their actions personally, we can really improve our relationships with our horses.

I’d love to know what you all think of this topic, have you thought of it this way before? Are you, like many equestrians, guilty of thinking your horse misbehaves deliberately and taking it personally? Or do you hold the strong opinion that horses DO understand and that they can be much more complex than we think?


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  • Comment Link Regina Mcbride Saturday, 19 November 2016 10:58 posted by Regina Mcbride

    I took part in an Equine Behaviour course and it was a real eye-opener - I totally agree with what is said in this article and not only does it concern horses, I think it is mostly true for any animal or pet that we interact with. We try to interpret their reactions into human language and put in our own reasoning, as if we were reacting like this and try to explain behaviours with intentions that we only know from ourselves or other humans... It is well worth to actually try to "learn" another species' language (in the case of horses it's mainly body language), so that we can avoid so many misunderstandings and instead learn to "listen" to what they actually try to tell us.