When was the last time you did something just to make yourself feel good?
Have you ever done something around/with/for your horses in a "feel-good" way for YOU?
I bet you did! Realistically speaking, our horses are our moments of doing something for ourselves, even if we are doing it with our four-legged friends. So essentially, everything about horses is about our selves too.
So how do the horses fit in? Do they benefit from our benevolence? Or do they become mere objects of our affections, there to make us happy when we feel like it, and dropped to the wayside when we are done with them?
When it comes to horses, we all have differences in opinions and various ways of doing just about anything. As the saying goes, ask twenty-five horse people the same question, and you'll get twenty-five answers! Often, opposite beginnings result in similar endings, so even if you do things a little differently than others, the end result is similar if not completely identical. It is true that in horse keeping, different paths may lead to the same end.
However, when we analyze why we do things, we realize that there are several justifications behind our decision-making steps. If you are asked to explain your rationale, you have perfectly good reasons for why you do things the way you do them.
For example, you might put a rain sheet on your horse in order to give him that extra protection in the still-cool and possibly rainy days of early spring or late fall. Others might say that horses will "survive" just fine without the rain sheets, but some of us will put the sheets on, if for nothing else, so we feel like we did something to create more comfort for our horses (of course, blankets might also help overall coat and health condition).
How about hand-feeding the horse a treat? Horses generally welcome such "special" moments with their humans, especially when something tastes good! Without a doubt, the horse's reaction to treats is different from the human's response - the horse welcomes the tasty treat simply for the taste, while the human undergoes emotional reverberations thanks to the enthusiastic reception by the horse!
Necessity Versus Pleasure
In each case, what is most important is not what is being done, but why it is being done. Dig below the surface to unearth why you made the decision you did. Was it an essential need of the horse, or did you do it mostly because it made you feel good?
If your answer is the latter, keep these two things in mind:
1. So long as we know why we are doing things, then it is fine to do them. If you feel good when you do something, then it is worthwhile in its own right, if for nothing else, then for the emotional release it gives to you, the horse owner. In this case, you know you are doing it for your own sake.
2. What you are doing does not harm the horse. Flash-back to the hand-feeding scene, and notice that although you are making the horse happy when you give him a treat, you also may be teaching the horse to take nibbling to the next step - and develop a biting response. In this case, the harm to the horse might outweigh the pleasure you feel. When there is possible harm involved to either yourself or the horse, then you should revisit your decision.
This need for us to "feel good" when we do things for our horses can span everything from feeding hay (too much can be almost as harmful as too little) to riding (riding too long can harm as much as riding too little).
Keep the horse in mind. When you make decisions around the horse, are you making them for the sake of the horse, or for your own sake? And if you are making the decisions for your sake, admit it, accept it (in other words, know that the horse could be perfectly fine otherwise), and feel good about it!
Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published! Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email
New! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding
Available as an eBook or paperback.
Other articles you might enjoy!
Too Good To Be True? Finding Your Horse’s Happy Place: Did you know that through riding alone, you can improve the quality of your horse’s life? All horses respond positively to enjoyable exercise….
Speaking Horse: (a.k.a. “Pushing the Envelope”): It is important to know that speaking “horse” doesn’t mean getting all cuddly and cute. Read to find out how to “speak” so that horses appreciate your presence.
Quit to Persevere: When quitting is the right thing to do.
The Truth About Balance: It isn’t only about balance in the saddle – find balance in all areas of the horse’s life.