Making assumptions vs Awareness
In this blog I will be talking about horse and humans making assumptions and how this often occurs unconsciously.
I remember at one occasion I was given a horse to ride for a college application. I was told :” you can ride a cob, as they are very quiet and safe”. That had not been the first time that I had heard the saying that cobs are quiet/safe. But this does not just relate to breeds, but also to the age such as “old horses are slow or have less energy” but I have seen plenty of older horses that still had a lot of go. But often it is related to the training of the horse. How well a horse has been trained, or how successful the horse has been in his career, defines how “ well behaved “ he may be.
But a horse is still a living being, just like humans, each horse is different from others of the same age, bread, colour, size, training etc. We can not assume that those things will make a horse a certain type. What I am trying to get to is that we are all individuals.
Often those assumptions occur unconsciously, we do not even realise that we have just made an assumption about something, because it is also something natural for us to do. This does not mean that it will always stay like this. We can become aware and look at things from different angles.
The other part is when we make assumptions when we are handling our horses. We might have a certain routine e.g. preparing for riding, mounting, tacking up etc. If things always have been going well, we might start to not look for the green flags our horses are giving us and might miss the red flags, as small as they may be. This can lead to a lot of little red flags, which may become quite big and at that stage we have to do quite a bit to get some green flags again. Again this could be happening unconsciously and by becoming more aware of ourselves, our horse and the situation we are in, we can act much quicker.
It is very useful to establish some good habits to check certain things out. Such as checking that the horse good lateral flexion so we can be certain that we have the horse attention and breaks when we need them. Imagine being in a plane, which had not been checked over before departure, and now you find out that something isn’t working properly, preventing the plane from landing safely. It’s too late now to check it.
So my point it that always check the horse out before, not after or during, as it might already be too late and then say “ I thought everything was okay...!”. “I know” is better then “I thought”. This includes loading, vet (injections), saddling, clipping, hacking out etc.
But we are not the only one’s that can make assumptions, the horses can also learn to make assumptions. Horses like consistency, it is a great teaching tool and it can give the horse safety as he knows what is going to happen next.
I can remember riding a horse I had on loan through the woods, the path led to an open bit of field. My horse started to trot a little before the woods finished and by the time I got to the field he was cantering, not out of control. When we got to the top he started walking again. I always found it very interesting that the horse new that we were going to canter there. But I then realised that prior to that, I had always cantered up that track after the woods. So he had started to learn that we canter as soon as we get there. He might also have started to canter a couple of strides before I had asked, and rewarded that by letting him to do so. This led to him making the assumption, because I had not asked him to canter yet.
I think this is quite powerful, to show how the horse learns and how he can make connections and make decisions. But it’s the human that let the horse make the assumption. For instance with the horse above I could have started to add some variety such as trotting instead of cantering, making transitions, backing up or going to the end of the woods, stopping and turning back around. This would have caused the horse to think before he started to put in effort into something I did not want at that time. Instead of my horse asking questions (having a conversation) he thought he knew the answer and it wasn’t a conversation anymore. But we can not blame the horse for that action, because we have allowed that thought to get there but didn’t add some adjustments to keep the horse guessing,
Don’t be discouraged or feel bad for making assumptions or blame yourself. But now that you aware you can do something about that, how ever small the adjustment might be.
By becoming aware we can see a lot more.