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?