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R-E-S-P-E-C-T


Respect. It's a word you hear thrown around a lot lately in the horse world. "The horse NEEDS to respect you", "He's not respecting your space", "Don't let him disrespect you like that..." And on and on and on.


But, the thing is, the horse has no concept of respect. That's not even a word in his vocabulary! Respect is a human word. WE know what respect is and that we need to respect each other. When we speak about an animal having respect, we are anthropomorphizing. Meaning, we are looking at the horse and giving it human characteristics. Unfortunately, their brains don't work that way. They work off of instinct. In order for a horse to respect us, they would have to have a sense of self, then be able to understand not only their own actions, but how they affect the person working with them. Do you see where I'm going with this?


When we look at a horse as doing something to us, instead of just acting out of their instincts, it becomes personal to us. It's one thing if someone pulls ahead of you in the car lane, and certainly another if they cut you off. Horses do not have the cognitive ability to cut us off, or disrespect us.


Instead of using the word respect, I like to say we are teaching our horses boundaries. Every animal and human needs to have a healthy set of boundaries in order to efficiently work together. Horses understand boundaries, they use them all the time with each other. ' Don't go to the chestnut mare, she kicks. You can give me scratches, OK that's enough.'


Boundaries are needed to be set to appropriately communicate with our horses. Watch when they're in the pasture. They all have their space bubbles. We, too, should have a space bubble around us. (Unless you like getting your toes squished!) And when that boundary is crossed, then we need to let them know that's not OK by moving them back. Eventually, through repetition, they learn what your boundaries are. Make them, and stick to them and know they will be tested. Just like kids, horses like to make sure you're paying attention! As soon as you start talking with someone else, notice how the horse you're holding starts to creep back in your bubble.


Figure out your boundaries and let the horse know them. It's not about respect, it's about communication. Once we can figure out each others speak, life starts to get a little easier.

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