A Respectful Horse is a Willing Horse, by Clinton Anderson
A respectful horse is a willing horse. When you ask him to move, he does so instantly. When you lead him, he walks next to you like a shadow. When you go into his stall, he greets you with his ears pricked forward. He wants to be your partner.
A disrespectful horse pins his ears at you, nips at you, shows you his heels and ignores you. He’s unsafe to be around and takes all the joy out of horse ownership.
We all know that we want our horse’s respect, but knowing how to go about getting it can be a challenge for some. Before attempting to earn your horse’s respect, it’s important that you understand what you’re asking for and how to go about getting it.
Respect and the Personal Hula Hoop Space Respect is broken up into two categories, a safety category and a learning category. When I refer to the safety category of respect I’m talking about the personal hula hoop space. The personal hula hoop space is a 4 foot circle that surrounds you and serves as your safety zone. Whenever I’m working with a horse, I always imagine that there’s a 4 foot circle drawn around me””almost like an invisible electric fence. Unless I invite the horse into my personal hula hoop space, he should keep a respectful safe distance from me. The horse should never come into the circle unless I invite him in.
Think about all the times people get hurt by horses. The horse bites them, kicks them, strikes at them, runs over the top of them, etc. Each time the horse was in the person’s personal hula hoop space. You can’t be injured if the horse is kept outside that circle. A horse can’t bite you if he is 4 feet away from you. He can’t kick you if his hind leg doesn’t get any closer than 4 feet to you.
People think that it’s just a disrespectful horse that will hurt you, but that’s not true at all. A fearful horse will hurt you just as fast. Have you ever noticed that when you’re leading a horse that is nervous and frightened, when something scares him, he tries to jump on top of you? He pushes into you and invades your personal hula hoop space. He tries to jump in your top pocket doesn’t he? Because the horse is looking for us for safety, but unfortunately, we’re a lot more fragile and smaller than a horse. And eventually, we will get hurt. A fearful horse will hurt you just as fast as a disrespectful one will.
I don’t care if my horse has a heart attack and gets scared; I just want him to do it outside of my personal hula hoop space.
The first part of respect is to teach the horse that you are fragile and that he needs to be careful around you. When a horse kicks another horse in the belly what does that horse do? He grunts, walks away, and starts eating grass again like nothing ever happened. It doesn’t really bother him. But, if we get kicked in the ribs by a horse, we’re in the hospital for a week with seven broken ribs. It’s the same kick, but it means a lot more to us because we’re smaller creatures. We’re 140 to 200 pounds and horses are 1000 to 1200 pounds. They’re a lot bigger than us.
The safety part of respect is to say, “”Listen, take care of me. I’m pretty fragile, so you can’t be biting me and kicking me or playing rough around me.”” By Invitation Only The first rule of safety is: “”Don’t come into my personal hula hoop space unless I invite you in.” It’s kind of like how you want your neighbors to treat you. You might like your neighbors, but you never want them to just barge into your house. You always want them to walk up the door, knock and ask to come in. At that point, you can ask them to come in, but you always want the option to turn them away. You don’t want your horse to act like a nosey neighbor and barge into your space.
When I first meet a horse it’s very important for me to establish my personal hula hoop space. If I can touch any part of the horse with my Handy Stick while my arm is stretched out, he is too close. A lot of people reading this are saying, “”Does that mean I can’t love on my horse?”” Not at all. I’m just saying in the first few lessons until you have your horse’s respect, the safety category is taken care of, and you can back him up and move his feet, don’t have the horse come in close to you. When he’s in close and something bad happens, you’re going to come out on the wrong end of the stick.
Once you have the horse respectful, you want him to come up to you. I love my horses running up to me, but in the beginning they need to stay out of my personal hula hoop space until I know that I have them respectful. You can’t train the horse if you’re dead. You have to survive the experience first and train the horse second. I want myself to be safe, and I want my horse to be safe, but in that order””me first and the horse second. Author’s note: A native Australian, Clinton Anderson began his quest to become the best horseman he could be by apprenticing under nationally acclaimed Australian trainers Gordon McKinlay and Ian Francis. In 1996 Clinton moved to America to continue training horses and apprenticed under Al Dunning, winner of multiple AQHA World Championships, before beginning to train under his own name. Clinton loves training reiners and cow horses and has been successful in both competitive arenas. Clinton is the host of Downunder Horsemanship TV, To find out more about Clinton and how you can transform your horse into the partner you’ve always wanted, log onto www.downunderhorsemanship.com.
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