The specular horse
Horses are much more than animals you can ride on. Fortunately, more and more people are coming to this conclusion. Horses are fantastic animals that can teach us a lot about ourselves. About cooperation, communication, leadership and about our personality.
You could compare a horse to a huge receiver with an amplifier of emotional vibrations. No matter how good you are at hiding feelings, your body continues to send out your true feelings. Whether you want this or not. This happens on a wavelength that horses can tune in to very well. To survive, horses must be able to sense from a great distance whether a group of lions is hungry and aggressive or, on the contrary, overeaten and lazy. In this way they can also recognize a leader from a distance. The confident signals, the confidence the leader has in himself and others, are signals that are easily picked up by the horse.
A horse not only mirrors emotions, but also our behavior and movements. You can see this mirroring mainly in the horse’s behavior. For example, a horse walks away from you, comes to you or does exactly what you do. Horses also show very specific behavior in response to your emotions, such as yawning, sneezing, chewing & licking or lowering the head.
Your horse as a manager?
But what about leadership now? What can a horse teach you about that. A horse depends on the leaders in the group for its survival. A herd has two leaders, the lead mare and the lead stallion. They each have their own tasks and they are both indispensable. There is a strict hierarchy in the herd that everyone should adhere to, as this is the safest for the whole group. As soon as something changes in the group, for example younger animals leave for another group or one of the herd members dies, the best composition for the group is immediately reconsidered.
Determining the best composition over and over again also happens with horses and humans. As soon as a horse comes into contact with other horses or people, it is immediately determined who is boss. Even though this is a mini group consisting of you and your horse. The horse immediately sees which of you is in charge. If the horse does not accept you as a leader, he will go his own way and continue to take his own initiatives.
How do you know who the leader is? You or the horse?
By looking closely at the behavior of your horse you can learn a lot about yourself as a leader. For example where does your horse run? If you walk in the box together (without a lead rope or halter) does your horse voluntarily follow you? If this is the case, is he walking in front of you, next to you or behind you? And is this the same when he walks on a lead rope in a strange environment? A horse running in front of you sees itself as the leader, a horse running next to you is your buddy. A horse that walks behind you sees you as the leader.
If you want to learn more about your horse, pay attention to the following (this can be done while brushing, loose in the box, loose in the stable, pasture, etc.):
- Does your horse ever stand in such a way that you stand next to his shoulder? Pay attention to this, because we often correct this unconsciously by taking another step forward towards his head. A horse that puts you next to his shoulder puts you in the foal position. He wants to protect you.
- Does your horse run towards you and then walk past you and stop a few meters away? Then there is a good chance that he will invite you to follow (i..v that he follows you).
- Does the horse stay in front of you without moving? Then he waits for your instructions.
- Do you ever get nudges from your horse against the front of your shoulder? Then the horse wants you to do what you have planned. Pay attention! This doesn’t always have to be about handling the horses. This can also be about another topic.
What does this say about you?
Where your horse stands and walks in relation to you can tell you whether you are a leader or not. But also the way you ask something from a horse, whether this is groundwork, lunging or on the horse, says a lot about the way you approach things. If you bring a horse and you walk next to it, then you often like to be friends and you prefer to work together. More of a team player than a leader perhaps. If you stand behind it to drive him up, then you may be the lead stallion who lets the group run its course at quiet times, but pushes it up in danger (eg of a deadline). Or do you run ahead and expect him to follow you? Just like the lead mare everyone has confidence in, because she knows exactly what needs to be done through her experiences.
Some questions to think about
What is interesting to consider if your horse lived in a wild herd, approximately what position would it occupy? Is it a dominant horse, an extrovert (outwardly directed at others) horse, or an introverted horse or an insecure horse? And what attracts you to your horse? Or what do you find difficult. If you have an answer to this, can you translate this to the people in your area? Which people do you get along with. Do they have the characteristics that you see in your horse or not at all? And knowing that, what does all this say about you? What type are you in the herd and how does this combine with your horse?
How do you become a leader
Realize that a horse is a herd animal and needs a leader. That is not sad, it gives him clarity and security (safety). A horse wants to feel safe. For many people, knowing that a horse really needs guidance is enough to apply this. But of course you may need guidance or you may be insecure. That doesn’t mean you can’t handle horses. But realize that a horse that is too dominant, but also a very scared, insecure horse can cause problems, which can decrease the pleasure in dealing with horses. In such a case, always make sure to seek help. Not for your horse, but for you. Follow training courses where you can practice leadership. Go to a good coach who can help you with your self-confidence or with assertive (decisive) communication. And see an instructor who not only looks at how your horse walks, but also helps you with your relationship. Start with yourself, because your horse’s behavior mirrors your behavior! Improve your skills and you will see that your horse’s behavior changes too!