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  • Writer's pictureLouise Stobbs

Your horse is not trying to give you a hard time

Every time I post about a specific stress behaviour the defensive comments come rolling in, “my horse isn’t stressed he’s just a dick, you don’t know anything about him, I know my horse best” etc. Look, its fine to scroll past, its fine to ignore it, you can do whatever you want, I’m not the horse police, I’m just trying to offer some insight to people who are interested and perhaps haven’t thought about it that way before.

Its reasonable to feel anger and irritation towards a horse when you’re interpreting their behaviour as vindictive or rude, and its much easier to think this way as then its all the horse’s fault and we don’t have to change anything about our behaviour. But these behaviours that are seen as disrespectful and naughty are usually a stress/pain/fear/confusion response and once you interpret it as a horse that is struggling your emotion towards them starts to feel very different.

You can be adamant your horse isn’t stressed all you want, it doesn’t change the fact he is stressed. Just as someone being adamant their horse isn’t in pain, doesn’t change the fact their horse is in pain, the horse is still living that experience whether you choose to believe it or not.

I used to feel very defensive when I came across information that suggested what I was doing with my horses perhaps wasn’t great for them, I completely understand the feeling behind this. It feels like a personal attack, you don’t want to change something that feels like a fundamental part of you when you’ve been doing it for years and how dare someone suggest you’re doing anything to harm your horse? 😤 Unfortunately, I was inadvertently harming horses, maybe not with whips and spurs, but I wasn’t listening to them and I was working them in ways that were damaging to them both physically and mentally. It took me a long time to actually sit with those thoughts and start to be open to change.

There is a very strange attitude in the horse industry that seems to mock kindness, eye rolls at anyone who suggests to look a little deeper and praises people for being hard on their horses. You see it constantly online with people making sarcastic comments about investigating pain while laughing at videos of horses showing reactive/stress behaviours. Its such an odd phenomenon when these same people clearly love horses, perhaps its giving a sense of community and belonging, but I’ll leave that one for the psychologists.

It doesn’t bother me, I’m used to being the weirdo, I only care what the horses think about me nowadays and I’m lucky to be on a yard full of like-minded people, but these attitudes can be so alienating. I have clients who are essentially being bullied on their own yard because they want to take their training in a more ethical direction, there is very little discussion around how soul-destroying it can be, even as an adult, when you’re trying to go against the grain.

I want this page to be a place of support for like-minded people and also open to civil discussion. I have absolutely no problem with chatting about things and why I think what I think, but most people don’t actually want a discussion they just want to tell you you’re wrong. When we start talking about “Karens” and “haters” as soon as someone disagrees with us we are never going to be open to listening to each other and perhaps learning from each other. I can’t control where my posts are shared but nobody is forcing you to interact with them or even read them if they make you that upset 🤷🏻‍♀️.

I don’t need to know your horse personally to know that he’s a horse that behaves like a horse. None of us are infallible but I will continue to follow the behavioural and equitation science which is giving us the information we need to make better choices for our horses that we all clearly care about so much. 🐴

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