Because you Can’t, it doesn’t mean the Horse Can’t: A talk about accepting responsibility for what You do not know

We run into this often. I know most quality training barns out there do, as well.

A horse in a program knows how to load, pick up all 4 feet, accepts fly spray, neck reins, respects personal space, canters safely, stands to be mounted. . . You name it, the horse does it, or maybe he does most of it, and then he goes into a NEW home, and the truth is, the adopter or buy typically will be less skilled than the professionals selling or placing the horse from an adoption program (though they will often not adopt it),and things unravel.

You get a call or email in 3 weeks or 3 months, and it goes like this:

“Nelly won’t load. No one can load her. I doubt she ever loaded.”

You suggest they remember the day Nelly loaded from the facility like a gem, but they do not see how that matters. They insist the horse cannot be loaded now, and therefore, no one can load her, and the horse is the problem.

Let us try another scenario:

“Nelly runs me over every single time I open the stall, she won’t stand to be mounted, and she bucks the minute I try to get on.”

You suggest they remember the day they came to meet Nelly, and you remind them how you went to the stall, took her out, how she stayed out of their space, how you put the fitted tack on her, how she stood like a gem, how they then mounted and rode her off nicely. They insist it was a fluke. It isn’t the horse they have now. They end up never asking for lessons to fill the deficit in knowledge they, not the horse, have in their skillset.

This is how good trainers get a bad reputation, this is how good horses end up neglected and discarded, and this is how a novice (even if long time) horse owner never really takes responsibility for what they do not know and need to learn.

If someone else accomplished something with a horse, the HORSE KNOWS. If they cannot recreate the same things with your horse, then you do not know, and as a result, you can undo a good horse quickly with ignorance and with mistakes, both large and small.

I’ve seen so many horses come into the rescue as surrenders because the owners DID not know enough to keep the horses in order. I’ve seen in hundreds of times.

For instance, one year a horse was turned over for bucking. He bucked like a bronc, and a trainer took months to undo this bad habit. It is hard to say what caused it: Poor saddle fit, rough handling, mixed signals or maybe all of that, but a good trainer fixed his issue. Undoubtedly, it would happen again, with an unskilled person. It is unlikely the unskilled person who realize or admit the problem is not the horse.

Horses get labels that are unfair because of this.

We receive horses called dangerous all of the time that never show us a dangerous side, and it is important to understand a HORSE KNOWS what you know and what you do not. So sometimes, months of training isn’t even needed to fix behaviors; sometimes, the horse simple realizes he is being handled fairly and correctly, and he responds in the way he learned to respond years ago – as a partner. And the truth is, forcing a horse to endure ignorant treatment without responding isn’t realistic or kind, either.

Please never make the mistake of limiting the horse to WHAT YOU know. He usually knows more than you.

So if you saw a trainer ride the horse W/T/C without an issue, load the horse, back the horse, pick up all 4 feet, receive respect on the ground or whatever else you’re not seeing now, then be fair to the horse, and spend your time assuming the shortcomings belong to you, not him.

One thought on “Because you Can’t, it doesn’t mean the Horse Can’t: A talk about accepting responsibility for what You do not know

  1. Colonel M. F. McTaggart made the same point very succinctly a century ago. He wrote: ‘I can guarantee a horse is schooled. I cannot guarantee anyone else can ride it.’

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