The science of behaviour does not yet have all the answers to the questions posed by our horses; in fact it does not have all the explanations for human behaviour and learning fully defined.
When dealing with the elements of behaviour which are unknown, our interpretations are supposition of behavioural intent. We make assumptions on the horse’s behaviour based on what we ourselves know and have experienced. In effect, we are imagining how we might behave in similar situations; we are judging behaviour based on our map of the world.
Our understanding of the world and our interaction with the elements of our environment are based on what we have learnt and experienced in the past. Our unique map of the world is what we use to interpret the behaviour of our horses and predict their possible future actions. Essentially we are often guessing why a horse behaves the way it does. Factors such as environment, experience, learnt behaviour and our genetic make up combine to create our personalities and shape the way we behave. Therefore, it follows that our understanding of the world and our experiences will determine how we view the actions of others. We naturally label the actions of our horses depending on our own personalities and beliefs.
This is why the same action in a horse can be interpreted differently by two people who view the action at the same time. We make assumptions about behaviour based on who we are and what we know. The difficulty is in knowing if your map of the world is correct. We each sit in our world believing that we “know” how the world really is. If we do not understand that our maps may need to be redrawn occasionally then we will never question our view of behaviour and interpretation of individual acts of the horse.
Only by being open to the possibility that we are wrong with our interpretation, can we really begin to search for the truth. We must work on developing our balanced view of the world, we must ensure we are learning and growing before we can best guess the actions of our horses.
Our actions in relation to the horse will depend on how we interpret their behaviour. Our interpretation of behaviour can lead us down many different paths which may or may not be the best ones for the horse. So many horse owners feel the internal turmoil of peer pressure. Most livery yards have a splinter group of “experts” ready to pass judgement on every behavioural situation and activity.
The quiet owner trying to do the best for their horse can be bullied into feeling useless, and totally confused to which way to go, which drains self confidence very quickly. Many an expert can have a very convincing argument.
What I often find is that deep down, owners do really know what is right for them and their horse. However, they are just not yet strong enough to believe in themselves enough to act on what they believe.
How do we know what to believe? Firstly don’t believe anyone, not even me. That way we learn to question everything. I don’t mean an aggressive disbelief, or a statement of judgement that all people are liars, just that, at first, do not believe anyone. This includes ourselves; our beliefs that we are not good enough clouds our decisions and makes us lie to ourselves. Don’t judge or accept information immediately, just listen to what we are hearing or what we are thinking and then listen to our inner voice.
The inner voice seems to be the sum of all our knowledge and experience. If we are quiet and still we will know whether what we are hearing is the truth. If we are not hearing our little voice, quietly research the subject as much as we need and then listen for the truth again.
Who we are as people determines who we are as trainers because who we are determines how we perceive the equine and its behaviour. What we believe about the behaviour of equines will determine how we behave towards them. Our behaviour towards our horses will determine how they behave and a self fulfilling prophecy begins.
Many people have experienced the insight that their horse is a mirror for their own behaviour, and they are. We do not need to blame and pass judgement on ourselves for not being good enough. We just need to become aware of our own behaviour. Awareness allows us to choose our actions and reactions. Awareness of our own behaviour is the first step on the path to horsemanship and a deeper trust of ourselves as equine trainers.
Consider the following quotes –
‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t you are probably right.’ – Henry Ford
‘We do not see things as they are we see them as we are.’ – The Talmud
‘Its all a matter of perception.’ – Crawford Hall
When you really believe something, you will behave congruently with that belief.
By Ben Hart
(Thank you to Ben for an interesting article. Enjoyed this article? Then please donate a little to The Equine Independent to keep us writing without a subscription. You can donate via paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org. Even the smallest amount is greatly appreciated. Thank you for reading from everyone at EI.)