• Kathryn Hulland

You can never rely on a horse that is educated by fear!

I love this quote:

"You can never rely on a horse that is educated by fear! There will always be something the he fears more than you. But, when he trusts you he will ask you what to do when he is afraid." Antoine de Pluvinel 1555-1620

It makes me smile whenever I see it as it reminds me of Tigger. He was such a nervous wreck when he first came to me, so fearful of everything yet he learned to trust me and trust my judgment. The feeling when a horse is scared but fights their flight instinct and turns to you to ask what he should do is amazing, I am in awe of them and it is such an honour that they are able to put that trust in you, we should never take it for granted.

I will always remember the first time Tigger really took a leap of faith and put his trust in me, I took him for his first walk outside of the fields on to the road; a 4x4 towing a rattily trailer full of hay was coming our way so we moved to the verge, I could see he was thinking about what he should do and was in two minds, I reassured him and stood calmly using training techniques we had worked with in the field and he soon relaxed as it got closer and by the time it went by he had no fear at all and in fact realised there was hay on the trailer and tried to grab a mouthful! He looked to me rather than following his initial instinct of bolt and run which comes extremely naturally to him.

Years later when he was backed and I was hacking him out he would have his odd spooky moment if something caught him by surprise, like a dog running out from nowhere at a gate barking and rattling it; his initial instinct was to either spin and bolt or just bolt but he would pull up instantly, his instinct was to run because of the quick nature of what had happened but he was instantly listening to me and would pull up in 2 strides (in a bitless bridle). He would happily walk back to the barking dogs and stand there with them and trust my judgment, luckily the element of surprise didn’t get us too often but at least I knew he was always switched on listening and trusting me no matter what, even in full flight mode.

When a horse has had fear as his basis of education I believe you can never trust that horse until much relearning and bridge building has been done, until then he will be living on his nerve endings, he may not always show the fear often the most fearful horses have actually shut down completely as they cannot cope and see no way of escape, they have given up on life and laid down to allow the lion to consume them – shut down horses can be very dangerous I wouldn't trust them just because they seem to oblige, they can be unpredictable if something does manage to switch some sensory light on in their head. Of course not all will be that way, some will start to come around slowly in the right environment and you may find you start having a few behavioural issues to work through as they settle and feel they have a voice, if this happens don’t scold the horse work with what they are telling you, you should feel honoured they are opening up to you and trust you enough to finally say how they are feeling, and speak if they dislike something - it may not feel like it but it’s a compliment!

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