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Does My Horse Respect Me?

How do I Know if He Doesn't Respect Me?

Difficult Horse We get a lot of these kinds of questions in various forms, so this is a typical rider's concern. A horse that doesn't respect his rider or handler is no fun to ride or groom. In fact, he can actually be a danger, because the horse sees no reason to conform to the person's wishes and do as he's asked. As a result, the horse may just overpower that person to do as he wishes and the rider or someone else could get hurt.

Fortunately, the answer is that it's actually rather easy to tell whether or not your horse respects you — there are many signs signalling either way. Here are some examples of each:

If your horse respects you:

  • He'll enjoy seeing you when you arrive and will often come over to the gate to meet you as you approach his paddock or stall;
  • He'll be cooperative when you ride him, lead him, and do almost anything else with him;
  • He'll be attentive when you train him;
  • He'll always let you groom him, such as pick his hooves. In fact, he'll often lift each foot for you to clean it as you move to each one. After all, doesn't he learn quickly when he will be fed and where? Then why wouldn't he also learn typical and frequent grooming routines?
If your horse doesn't respect you:
  • He may run away from you when you approach him with or without a halter;
  • He'll ignore you unless you have food or are going to do something HE WANTS, such as release him from his stall or return him to the barn at day's end;
  • He may fight you when trying to groom him or tack him up;
  • He'll be difficult to control when riding or leading (he'll trot or run when he wants, but ignore your commands);
  • He may bump or push you;
  • He may bite you or kick you.
From the foregoing, you can see that it's rather obvious when a horse doesn't respect a human, and you've likely both seen it and experienced it at some time in your riding experience. In fact, you may be experiencing such behavior at this time.

But even more important, it's also obvious that, without a horse's respect, it can be very dangerous for you and others around you. If this is your current experience, don't wait, get a trainer now to work with your horse AND YOU! Don't miss that last part — it's the most important of all.

All too often, I see riders and owners who want some trainer to FIX their horse, but feel they don't have to do anything — nothing could be further from the truth. It's much more important for us to learn to properly interrelate with horses in general, and to assert that we're the leader of a particular horse's herd, than any training our horse will get. That's not done through harshness or abuse, but rather by us learning to understand how horses communicate and acting as the herd's leader. It won't take long for our horse to understand — it usually takes us longer to learn equine communications skills. But it's necessary for us to both be safe and to have fun and control when around horses.

Two additional related articles you may also want to read are:

Alpha? It MUST, be you! — IS IT?
Step 0: Before Training, You Need Respect

Besides being an avid trail rider, Jerry Tardif is a technology consultant and a horse and nature photographer in SE Connecticut — see his work at: www.jerrytardif.com. He is also co-founder and President of QueryHorse.

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