The White Horse
Melissa approached the 7 year old gelding warmblood the same way she approaches every horse she sees – with leadership.
The owner had called two days earlier and said that she would not be attending the appointment because she knew she was a negative energy around her horse. The husband had already admitted he had been rough with the horse and he was now shy of all men. “Placing a needle in the horse was a project,” he told me.
How was I going to approach this horse who would fight to be heard and understood? The answer was simple. Many horses want a leader around them. When they don’t get it from their owner, they step up and lead. The problem with most “problem” horses is that they are not good leaders themselves. Many don’t even want the job. He was no exception.
When the owner relinquishes their leadership obligations to the unwilling or unable horse, then something close to anarchy occurs.
Anarchy means “a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority.” This has been in my experience the number one reason people have problems with horses.
In this horse’s case, he had a dominant personality and challenged any authority that entered his stall. This had led to aggressive encounters with the vets and men which has led to a distrust of both. In addition, he has learned to have his way with weaker and non-challenging people such as the female owner.
So I sent in Melissa! Because it was a woman, the horse was ready to listen though he was not convinced that Melissa’s intentions were in his best interest. However, with the leadership skills Melissa presented, the horse quickly capitulated and with only a few turns of objection around the stall and a few loud kicks to the wall, she was able to connect and perform a thorough float of his teeth. Even after she was done and I entered the stall and did my final review, the horse just stood there. He was relinquishing his leadership role to someone with better quality leadership skills.
The owner was very happy and is a customer for life. The horse showed gratefulness too and will be a lot easier to work with the next time we see him.
The Black Horse
I received a call from a very concerned woman who I had been referred to by a veterinarian. She said, “I have a very difficult warmblood, 14 years old, that has not been floated for 2 ½ years because no one has been able to float him.” The last veterinary dentist said that the horse needed to be heavily sedated by someone else before she would even enter the barn to float his teeth.
This very large horse kicks, strikes, bites, lunges, and basically does everything in his power to eject you from the stall. There was no doubt that he was a dangerous horse.
I walked in and attached my lead to the horse who just stood there with no fear on his face. I turned away and started a conversation with the owner and trainer. What this horse needed was the lowest amount of energy from me and I worked on that as I talked with them.
For about 3 minutes I worked on keeping my energy low as I communicated with the horse my energy and my intentions while my back was turned to him and I talked with the people in front of me. What helped here was that both the owner and trainer also had low energy which the horse was tapping into. He often touched me softly with his muzzle then said in a low and confident way, “Let’s get started then.”
Let me be clear, this horse was dangerous and twice expressed himself in an explosive way while I was working with him. The keys to handling this over-reactive horse was to 1) not buy into his story, 2) not reward his bad behavior, 3) keep my energy at the lowest level, and 4) never be afraid. This last one is the biggest problem with people working with horse because if you are afraid, you have already bought their story, raised your energy, and rewarded their bad behavior.
The horse responded positively after only a few attempts to explode. When we stopped working, he looked like he would fall asleep. He showed signs of gratefulness that the trainer and owner were shocked to see from him. Every time I started back to work in his mouth, I had to start from the beginning but each time, it became easier to reach the level of mutual respect we needed to effectively work.
In the end, the procedure was a non-event and word quickly spread through the barn that his teeth had been floated without drugs. While all were amazed, for me, it was the simple application of my 10 Irrefutable Laws Of Horsemanship.
The Bottom Line
Horsemanship is dying but is not dead. The horses I mentioned in this story, all seen this week, are proof that horsemanship works. I still medicate 1 horse in 10 that I work on, but most of these are for pain such as an extraction.
What keeps Melissa and me going every day is the connection we make with every horse every day. Of the last 100 horses we have floated to date, we only gave pain medication to 2 horses who are intolerant to the process. This low percentage is because of the horsemanship skills we practice every day on thousands of different horses we see every year. It is an art form that does need daily practice like any other art form.
However, every art form needs a framework. Singing needs an understanding of notes and timing as well as the instrument being played. Painting needs to have an understanding of the medium being used and the physics of colors and light. And Horsemanship requires knowing certain things and I call the things, The Irrefutable Laws.
For all of my readers out there, I want to give you my book, The Ten Irrefutable Laws Of Horsemanship as a free download. It is my way of thanking you on this Thanksgiving. I am so grateful for all of you that ask us to come to your farm and work on your horses. For those who read this e-letter but are not clients, I am grateful for you too.
This is an electronic download of a PDF of the book. For those who want to purchase it for your back pocket, go to my publisher for a copy. You can also go to Amazon. If you want an electronic version, you can get that too from my publisher, Amazon, and even iTunes for your iPhone. (This is now a part of your membership)
Please consider my other 2 books as a great present for your horse friends. They are listed below.
Since The Days Of The Romans – My Journey Of Discovering A Life With Horses – My story of becoming a veterinarian was not high school – college – vet school. It was a totally different route including dropping out of college 3 times and learning how to read before attending Cornell for undergraduate and veterinary school.
Thanks and have a great Thanksgiving,
“The Ten Irrefutable Laws Of Horsemanship“
“True And Incredible Stories Of A Horse Vet” – Stories from my life as an equine veterinarian that will entertain you, have you laughing and crying, and is as real as I could make it.
“Since The Days Of The Romans – My Journey Of Discovering A Life With Horses” – My story of becoming a veterinarian was not high school – college – vet school. It was a totally different route including dropping out of college 3 times and learning how to read before attending Cornell for undergraduate and veterinary school.