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Understanding Begins on the Ground
So far in our B.R.A.I.N. training, we have discussed the importance of believing in ourselves as a confident leader by taking an honest assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, as well as, identifying the tools we possess and the ones we hope to acquire. We have acknowledged that horses 'read' our level of ability and respond accordingly. We have explored the concept that animals achieve position and dominance by controlling physical territory. One applies pressure and another yields. An understanding is reached, so harmonious co-existence can take place... until the next challenge of authority. So, how do horses challenge authority? Aggression.
A – is for AGGRESSION
The confidence I speak about is a quiet confidence conveyed to your equine partner through posture, skill and forethought. The courage I mentioned is rooted in a knowledge of equine behavior and your own horse's individual personality. Study & observe. Just like with our spouses and children, we've spent so much time building a relationship with them and understanding who they are, we can almost always know what they need to quell their fears or calm a situation. Spending time just observing your horse and learning about his personality, will help you with his training. Lastly, self-control is seated in the emotions. When we go to the barn for a training session without tools or a plan, frustration is inevitable and often leads to anger. We blame the horse for not 'getting it' and we use the wrong kind of aggression. Our emotions are out of control, the horse sees it and you quickly go from a leader to a predator. Allowing your horse to doubt your motives often undoes any accomplishments achieved during recent sessions. We are all human, so when you feel yourself losing it, LEAVE. Our goal is calm confidence, skillful courage and complete self-control, for both horse and handler. Communicating to your horse when he is doing the desired skill, not just always correcting him, produces a bold horse. Being believable through consistency of method develops a brave horse. Having patience as the anchor and understanding as the goal, you are well on your way to a confident, courageous and self-controlled partner that looks forward to his training time with curiosity and wonder.
When I mention 'aggression', what is the first thing that enters your mind? ANGER, right? That is typically the association we make. But, I can aggressively go after a job promotion without displaying anger or aggressively shop for Christmas presents on that big sale day at the mall, devoid of any malice whatsoever. I can even aggressively consume a Big Mac, large fries and a milkshake in complete and utter happiness. Aggression is not always offensive or invasive. Aggression, by definition can also mean confidently and boldly assertive, vigorously energetic, self-assured, positive, competitive or decided.
When you believe in yourself and understand the importance of boundaries, you can use assertive, positive, decided levels of aggression to communicate with your horse(and people) in a way that makes perfect sense. There should never be any display of anger. EVER. A horse's natural response to anger is fear. In a herd you will never see a horse kick or bite another without first giving a few warnings, which increase in magnitude until the subordinate yields. This gives him a chance to make a decision, “Do I go ahead and let him have this section of grass or do I think its worth seeing if I can move up the pecking order?” Unlike people, when a dispute over property takes place, horses don't hold a grudge. They use just enough aggression to gain position, and then it is over. No animosity. Twenty minutes later, they are grooming one another in the field. It is about respect, not life and death. Imagine how you would ask your child to “Come here.”. First time you would ASK, then you would TELL , then you would go get her and MAKE her come to you. You gave her the chance to make the right choice on her own. Just as there is no place in this scenario for anger, the same holds true for when you're training your horse. Just a 'matter-of-fact' attitude and the willingness to be patient and committed.