What do you – you personally – need from your horse to feel safe and be safe at feed time?
This isn’t a trick question and there is no right or wrong answer – although the answer, even just asking the question, could be incredibly important to your relationship with your horse. We are quite possibly all going to answer it differently, firstly because we are individuals and then because of the different circumstances that we are feeding our horses in.
So what was my personal answer to this question?
- I need the whole herd to focus on me at feed time.
- I need the whole herd to be gentle with each other while I am amongst them.
- I need them to go into their individual yards, quietly and wait for me to bring their feeds.
- I need each horse to stand back politely while I put the feed in their buckets.
- I need them to move over when I ask politely with my stick or the piece of rope in my pocket.
- I need them to remember that I am there in the yard whenever I am in the yard.
If I didn’t ask my horses for the things that make me feel and be safe at feed time, what might feed time look like?
I might get pushed or knocked or even injured by one or more demanding horses when I walk into the paddock or the yard or field or the stable with their feed buckets. I might feel threatened or even frightened or angry or tight and tense or I might other wise feel crappy. I might have had to be so brave so often, that I don’t even feel afraid any more in the face of danger. (That used to be me – but man… the back pain and headaches of that disconnection from my danger awareness just about killed me!)
So how do I get my horse or horses to focus on me, be gentle with each other, stand back and move over politely and remember that I am in their yard/stable/paddock/field at feed time?
Ahhaaa. Have you realised yet what a big question this is?
This is MY list of what it takes to have all those things happen at feed time that make me feel safe and thus be safe.
- The horses have to be not afraid of me – and I mean REALLY not afraid of me – deep in their comfort zone not afraid of me.
- The horses have to be not afraid of the tools that I use the ask them to do things with – like a whip or a stick or a piece of rope – that I use to ask them to stand back please, move over please or out of this yard please because you are in the wrong place. And they have to be in their comfort zone with those tools.
- The horses have to be in their comfort zone being asked to do things with those tools.
- Then the horses have to be willing and co-operative about doing what is asked of them – like stand back, move over please, you are in the wrong yard, etc. And yes, point number 2 and 3 and 4, really are separate issues.
- Then me, I need to be in such a connected space with my horses so that I notice anything that is going wrong, before it physically goes wrong. And yes, you can read it again, that is what I meant to say – and yes, anyone can do this.
Now here’s the icing on the cake – if you know how to have all this at feed time, then you can easily have it any where else with your horse – in and out of the saddle – because we just defined leadership and co-operation between horse and person, horse and rider.
When my editor edits my books, he goes nuts when I do what I just did in the previous paragraph – drop an incredibly life changing insight and then just write on, as if it was not such a big deal. So go back and read those points again – because they are incredibly important to leadership and the co-operation that it is even more important for you to have with your horse when you don’t yet have all the skills for leadership.
There’s a lesson on safety and good manners at feed time in the completely free gift lessons The 9 Keys for Happiness with Your Horse, along with the connection with your horse to make this a really good deal.