Home : Horsemanship Essays by Franklin Levinson : Attitude is Everything with Horses and Humans

Attitude is Everything with Horses and Humans

I receive a daily inspirational message from a good friend who is an author on spiritual topics and a motivational speaker named Alan Cohen. The quote for today is:

“We see the world not as it is, but as we are.”

Relating this attitude is everything theory to training and communicating with horses produces immediate results of success or failure. First off, if we think horses do not understand us or do not have the cognitive skills for two-way communication with a human, then we will never have that sort of connection with any horse. If we think it is a possibility then, with some coaching or training, it can become a reality. As the horse is a prey animal, which means other animals eat it, it has big antennas that are constantly scanning its environment for predators. For a horse there is only fear or trust. It either trusts it is safe or it is fearful it is not.

Once this is truly understood about horses, it becomes obvious that if a human can help a horse to feel safe and trust it is safe, then the horse will accept the human as its herd leader just as it does the herd leader in the wild. I have become a successful communicator with horses because I have as my attitude that I want to become a peace bringer to the horse first and foremost. I have come to understand that if I can promote feelings of peace and safety within a horse, I become like a magnet for them, attracting them to me. Once they experience feelings of peace and safety (i.e. trust) they just want to stay around where these feelings originate (with me). This is the key to all bonding, connection and successful communication with horses and humans as well.

Feelings of safety are more important to the horse than food, water or shelter. The horse's sense of safety (survival) is first and foremost in it's mind. If it is feeling safe and peaceful it is not worried about survival and it can focus on what is happening in its environment and whatever is being requested of it without fearful thoughts entering its mind and distracting it. When we humans have an attitude of fear or paranoia, it can distract us so much that we become dysfunctional. Imagine what it might be to always be fearful of dying. That is what can happen for a horse that is never supported in, or able to find those all-important feelings of peace, trust and safety.

Peace, trust and safety, do not exist in the outside, physical world. They are internal feelings we all can have. We either feel them or we don't. It is the same for the horse. It feels safe and trusts that it will be safe or it does not. Resistance from a horse is always brought on by fearful feelings. Every time you hear someone say a horse is stubborn, willful, bad, mean, vicious or any other negative thing, it is an improper projection of the human's attitude on to the horse and an inaccurate interpretation of the horse's actions. For the horse's behavior is only a symptom of fear. It is like a child who is fearful and acting out (being stubborn, willful or some such negative behavior) because of its fearful feelings about something new, unknown or scary.

I practice being my best through bringing my best to the horse whenever I interact with them. If the interaction is successful for both the horse and me, then I have immediate feedback that I have, in fact, brought my best forward.

Horses will not eat, sleep, drink or anything else if they are fearful a predator is lurking nearby. They proactively seek feelings of peace and safety by running in a direction that their leader guides them to. Once a place of safety is felt (generally about a half-mile) they stop running and then, perhaps, backtrack to see what they were running from, or return to the normal routine of eating, playing and sleeping.

Humans see a horse's fearful feelings and the reactions they cause, as the horse being bad. We judge horses and humans all the time erroneously. We frequently make horses bad and wrong so we have an excuse to punish and dominate another being. How sad a commentary it is on the human condition that we sometimes feel so small and inferior that we have to hurt innocent animals and others in order for us to feel good about ourselves.

I propose a moratorium on negative attitudes. I suggest seeking a successful outcome for all through the extension of compassion, kindness and tolerance. We could choose peace over conflict if we are willing to suspend judgment. So, I do think attitude is everything as it relates to horses and humans. How you think something is, is what it is for you. Your children, spouse, career, your horse and your life are what you think they are.