Without a doubt, name-calling is one of my biggest pet peeves. The only thing that tops it is outright abuse.
We’ve all heard how some riders refer to their horse as an “asshole”, “jerk”, “butthead”, “brat”, etc.
While these names might seem harmless, they really do a lot of damage in the long-term between horse and rider.
Name Calling is the “Gateway Drug” to Abuse
Right, so some of you are going to read this and think I’m being ridiculous, overly sensitive, whatever. The fact of the matter is that in any human-human relationship, someone calling the other person these names is not showing them respect or care.
Imagine if you witnessed a person yelling these names at their significant other, while yanking on them. It would be a definite red-flag for further abuses behind closed doors.
Yet, in the equestrian world we just ignore it when people refer to their horse in these ways. Supposedly, these same people will claim, between name calling, that they love their horse more than anything in the world. Hm, yeah okay.
Assumptions Are Made
All of these names have something in common, they infer that the horse is intentionally behaving badly towards you. That they have it in for you as a rider.
While I’m sure at least a few do over time.. I mean I would definitely be trying to make my rider eat dirt every chance I had if they were calling me names all the time.. chances are greater that their behavior is because of gaping holes in your relationship.
The only person who can fix those holes are you, and possibly you with the help of a trainer.
You Get What You Talk About
I absolutely believe that the way you talk about your horse, is exactly the way they behave over time. If you call it like you see it right now, that’s all you’re ever going to get, nothing better.
If you talk to your horse like they are the best thing in the world:
- What have you got to lose?
- You just might end up with a better horse than when you started!
Let me tell you a short story about the most amazing horse I had the chance to own, ride and train. When I bought him, he was a pregnant-looking 14-something-hand 2-year old Paint. There was nothing particularly special when you looked at him, being in an awkward growth phase.
Not much had been done with him before I got him, and I didn’t have a lot of experience yet.
Like any match of green horse + green rider, things weren’t looking so hot for us. At every turn it felt like he was trying to purposely undermine me, and be difficult.
I found myself calling him a jerk. Yep, you heard right. The very thing I hate hearing from other riders, is something I did myself to this very horse.
And guess what? He WAS a big jerk! He was that way for almost a year, with no hope in sight.
Finally, on a whim, I started calling him a gentleman. Literally, I didn’t even use his name, I just always said “you’re such a gentleman”, every time I saw or worked with him.
And within weeks, he became a total gentleman! He was sweet, calm, attentive during work. He was careful about where he put his body so he wouldn’t bump into people or step on their toes. And he very quickly started learning everything I tried teaching him, within 1-2 sessions.
My mind was blown, and since then I’ve carried that habit with me. It has never failed me to this day, to improve the relationship between me and any horse I’m working with.
It Makes You Sound Like An Asshole
My final point is that even if nobody says something to you when you’re calling your horse names, there are going to be people who think you are the asshole, and not your horse.
Do you really want that to be the main impression you leave with other equestrians?
Go on, give it a try. Next time you’re at the barn, call your boys “gentlemen”, and mares “ladies”. What do you have to lose?