Anger has no place in horsetraining. It does not serve a purpose and it will get you nowhere. However we’ve all experienced anger, or more likely frustration, at some point in our horse training journey. So why does this happen? And what can we do to prevent that?
It’s all about boundaries and being consistent with our boundaries. Us humans somehow struggle with being okay with our own boundaries and being strict about them.. What I see happen often with horses and their owners is that the owners put up very little boundaries. Or are being inconsistent with those boundaries. And after their boundary is crossed one too many times, anger follows.
Horses can be as simple as they can be complicated. They do very well with clear, consistent and fair boundaries. It makes them comfortable and it makes them trust you more. They also learn routines easily, so if you’ve never put up a boundary and all of sudden you expect them to understand there are boundaries, they get confused.
There’s many situations where I see owners get annoyed, angry or frustrated with their horse while the situation could’ve been prevented very easily earlier on, if only boundaries would’ve been put up earlier. If you always give treats out of your hand and your pocket while your horse is on top of you, it’s not surprising that he’ll start to nibble on you. If you’re usually okay with your horse being close to you while not being focused on you, it isn’t strange he ends up stepping on your toes. If you let your horse being close to you while being high headed and pushy, it doesn’t come as a surprise that he eventually walks or runs over you. If you’re okay with your horse being unbalanced or unfocused when cleaning out his hooves, it should come at no surprise that he ends up acting up when the farrier is there. And we can go on and on with these little situations that often end up with an annoyed, frustrated or angry horse owner and a confused horse.
So why are we letting them cross our boundaries and then get angry they crossed them? It really isn’t their fault; they never knew that was a boundary. Often we don’t see the consequences of letting them cross small boundaries until it becomes a bigger one. Or we want to be nice, we want our horses to like us. It can be a challenge for us to realize that having boundaries; clear, consistent and fair boundaries actually makes the horse more comfortable around us. They do not “like” us any less for that. They would be more confused, and maybe even “like” us less, for getting angry about crossed boundaries that we were never clear about before.
Now, translating this into our daily life was a big big eye opener for me. Looking back at the times I was angry at a person, how many of those times was I actually angry over a crossed boundary that I never made clear. And when I gained that awareness, I still struggled for a long time to be completely okay with having boundaries, and being clear about them. But once I started to do this more and more, I noticed that 1; it actually becomes easier every time. 2; my little annoyances about people around me became less and less, and therefore anger and frustration became emotions that were less present in my life. And 3; most people are way more comfortable around me. They learned that they can count on me speaking up if something bothers me, and that makes them feel comfortable. They know I don’t get angry fast and that makes them like me more. Although it took a lot of effort to make this change in my life, I learned that this absolute worth the effort.
So learn your boundaries, be comfortable speaking up about them but stay kind and fair. With the horses and the people in your life.