We’re Only Human

Silhouetted Horses

If you spend any time around horses you will hear people say things like, “It’s my horse’s fault.” “This horse doesn’t know anything.” “The horse is being bad.” And “That horse is an idiot.” There’s no denying it, horses can be a source of frustration. However, if you always think your horse is stupid, there may be something else at work. You just might be defensive about feeling a little “intellectually challenged” yourself – and are projecting that onto your horse!

How many times have we seen this? A person has a personal flaw that they are in denial about. And it is this very trait or habit they condemn in other people. There is truth in the old saying, “When you point a finger of accusation at someone, there are three other fingers pointing back at you.” So be careful about the names you call your horse!

If we are angry from a frustrating day at work or from driving in rush-hour traffic, we may direct that anger towards someone else. It happens to all of us. Sadly, we may get angry at our horse for apparently no reason. Some of my former trainers recognized this. They always told me to acknowledge when I’m angry or upset and to never train or handle horses at those times. The reason is, the horse knows when you’re angry and will learn to fear you.

Horses are not immune from these emotional problems. Here’s an example. When working as a trail guide, I sometimes brush, saddle and cinch up a whole string of horses at the tie rail. Cinching is often uncomfortable to a horse. No matter how gentle we may be, the time restraints of preparing a string of horses for a big group ride may cause us to rush and move too quickly for our horses.

A cinchy horse may pull-back or bite us. But curiously, at these times the horse being cinched-up will bite the horse tied right next to it – not us. The horse projects his anger with the wrangler onto the innocent submissive horse standing next to him. And just think – that horse hasn’t even studied Freudian psychology!

A little understanding is needed on our part with respect to our behavior.   A little forgiveness is warranted too. We may have a hard time forgiving ourselves for “unnecessary roughness” directed towards our horse. We can always find it much easier to forgive our horse. After all, they’re only human.

I'm proud


Dr. Ken Marlborough is also known as The Horse Professor. He has taught English and Western riding in Iowa and California since 1995. He also wrote and illustrated the book,Trail Riding. He began his career in the equine industry as a Trail Guide in 1985 and has worked in this capacity since that time. He trains horses using an approach that emphasises learning in the horse while earning their trust and respect. Ken, sometimes called “Doc” by his students, earned his Ph.D. in Education at the University of Iowa, focusing on “learning by doing.” One of the areas he researched was college internships in the equine industry. He earned an A.A.S. degree in Horse Science at Kirkwood College, specialising in colt starting, and received teaching credentials in Equine Science, Education and Psychology, while in Iowa. Ken writes as a columnist for heartofahorse.com; a charity that focuses on maintaining and stimulating the unwavering well-being of horses in America.