You hear a lot about 'respect' in the horse world.
"He's got to respect your space"
"She's so disrespectful"
I struck the word from my training vocabulary many years ago, when I realised that it means different things to different people. Of course, that doesn't mean that I no longer have any control over my horse, it simply means that I changed my language so that I could be better understood.
The problem with concepts such 'respect', 'dominance' or 'herd leader' is that they are impossible to measure, can mean completely different things to different people and lead, some people, to punishing their horses (running around the round pen or forcefully correcting them).
Let's be honest, your horse doesn't think you're another horse and, looking at mine playing in the paddock right now, biting, kicking, rearing and generally having fun, I'm glad about that.
So, what can we say instead? I just say that the horse understands that I control speed and direction. To me, this is the same as saying that the horse is obedient or, as the more sciencey of you would say, under stimulus control (obedient to my cues).
The result of this change is that you can now measure your horse's response. Let's say you're leading your horse and he pushes into you. You didn't ask him to move left so he is not obeying your signal to walk next to you. That's easy to correct, right? All you need to do is move the horse back to the right, release and praise him for that, and off you go again.
Can you think of a situation where you could stop thinking about a behaviour in terms of respect or leadership and more about being obedient to speed and direction cues? If so, leave me a comment below.
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