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SWR Blog: “Knowledge = Patience”

Patience is a crucial part of horsemanship. I consider myself a pretty patient person in most areas of my life. The opportunities that I have been given to work with horses are responsible for most of my recent growth in this area. I heard somewhere that Patience ends shortly after our knowledge runs out. I have found this to be ultimately true whether we are talking about patience with our friends, family, coworkers, kids, dogs, or horses.

Running out of patience is not an uncommon thing to happen to any of us. We are after all human. One of the most effective ways to build our patience is to educate ourselves. Learning more about how our horses think and respond can increase our ability to remain patient when it feels like nothing is going right.

Every horse’s brain is wired similarly. He is born with the survival mentality that has been perfected over centuries of survival by his predecessors. Think about that for a moment. Horses do not have the sharp teeth of a lion or the antlers of a moose. Their sole means of survival is to be skeptical of everything and run, which has kept them alive for a long, LONG TIME!! Who are we to call them “stupid animals” and loose our patience when they spook or balk at something that they are uncertain of. How long would any of us survive living on the prairie with no weapons surrounded by mountain lions and wolves?

As the horse is handled we either reinforce his inherit fears, or we build up his confidence in himself, in us and in his surroundings. Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time your patience is wearing thin. . .

  • Horses are flight animals. Their first response to anything that they perceive as dangerous is to get the heck out of Dodge!
  • When the ability to run away has been taken from them horses will then turn to fight. A last stand of teeth and hooves as they strive for survival.
  • Horses are claustrophobic. This again goes back to being able to run away from any potential threat.
  • Horses are incredibly perceptive. They must recognize the difference between life and death in an instant. Is that mountain lion just headed to the pond for a drink of water or is he trying to eat my face????
  • Horses are afraid of predatory behavior, not predators.
  • Horses have poor depth perception. While the position of horses eyes give them a wide field of vision, it takes away from the ability to judge distance. This is why horses tend to step around muddy spots on the ground or water. They don’t know how deep those areas are and don’t want to break a leg.
  • Horses main desire in life is to be comfortable. Eating, sleeping, pooping, mating, these are things that our horses WANT to do. Horses can also enjoy working as long as we take the time to understand what we are asking of them and build their confidence.

While I know that a good portion of people have heard some if not all of these things at some point or another, its very easy to let our brains have the day off when things are not going as we had planned. I encourage you to be always mindful of what your horses is trying to tell you, and learning more from every minute spent with your horse.

Stay safe, keep riding, and above all, never stop thinking.

Jon Lindquist
Director of Horsemanship Programs



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