Where did you learn your horse sense?

I learned mine through the many teachers, mentors, professionals, students and friends who share the passion for horses that I have. They were (are) the ones who were willing to teach, explain, demonstrate and guide me through my many equine related adventures.

I learned mine through trial and error, through countless mistakes and many times, through listening to the horses themselves. As a lifelong learner, I recognized long ago that much of learning happens through listening. That was why the title "Horse Listening" resonated so strongly for my blog title.

Someone recently posted a comment on the Horse Listening Facebook page in response to my article, What Responsible Horse Ownership Really Means. I was beginning to formulate an answer in response, but then I thought I should elaborate here with more thought.

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The topic in question: horses are prey animals.

She implies that since I have stated in that article that horses are prey animals, then surely I should have credited the horsemanship professional that she claims first "coined the phrase."

Let me assure you that every post I write is completely original in the sense that I wrote the words and formulated the topics and points of view.

However, I never indicate that the ideas I write are of my invention. In fact, I can imagine that every topic I've discussed here has been contemplated, debated and developed by generations of people who have been closely associated with horses, including this one.

One of the most appealing aspects of horses and horseback riding (for me) is that in this environment of technology and electronics, horse sense has continued to live through good ol' fashioned word of mouth and person-to-person teaching. The oral tradition is as important as the written word of the past generations and continues to live through the people of today.

Even the highest profile professional trainers that I have watched, listened to and learned from openly indicate that the ideas being presented are not "theirs". Regardless of discipline or riding style, the best-of-the-best regularly credit the influencers of their lives. All disciplines and all generations have their exceptional people.

In the end, it comes down to this: good riding is good riding is good riding. Good teaching is good teaching, and good horsemanship is good horsemanship. You can switch the saddle (or take it off altogether!) and change the words, but when it comes down to it, "all horses have a head, tail, four legs, and gravity sucks the same for all of them" (credit for those words go to my own instructor and mentor).

Thanks to the presence of the horse, equestrians have more in common than differences, and we all recognize truths when we hear/experience/live them. As with many other horse-related concepts, the idea that horses are classified as prey animals has little to do with any marketing or branding efforts.

They just are.  

Interested to hear your view on this topic. Please comment below.

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  1. A long time ago now, one of my instructors suggested I read Xenophon, so I bought the book and I did. I realized that the riding disciplines, and “truths” we study today, date back thousands of years. And outside of the horse world, in the entire world, I have heard, many times, that there are no “new ideas,” just different expressions of them. As you said, the “best-of-the-best regularly credit the influencers of their lives.” Thank you for crediting your teachers, and thank you for writing about this! Just another reminder of how Universal are the ideas we espouse in the world of Equus!

  2. I think you are right. Horse knowledge is something that is passed on through generations of time and I don’t think one view is especially better than the other. I keep on learning, from my own horse, from other horse lovers and from different instructors. Also things like this, or reading articles on horseriding give me more knowledge about horses. You never stop learning and there’s no right or wrong, it’s like you said: trial and error. Also, every horse is different so there are lots of more lessons to be learnt!

  3. When asked, most grade school children would identify the horse as a prey animal as well. God made them prey animals on the food chain and gave all us the common intelligence to classify them as such. Please carry on without apology. I am new to your blog but so enjoy it. Thanks.

  4. The horses in my life have been the true teachers–people have put ideas into words and helped clear the way to implement training, but the horse lets you know if you have hit the mark. My current horse has really made me look at the world differently, he is an animal that does not respond the way most of my horses have. I have had to stand back and approach things differently all the way through his training. He was a very fearful boy and would become very aggressive, I had to overcome his fear and still instill discipline. It was a tough beginning but I now have a solid and very kind horse. I am also a lot smarter, kinder and more patient rider. He has been a great teacher.

    Thank you for your blog. There will always be people out there that want to pick an argument about terms. As far as I know the term prey animal was coined by biologist. The clinicians borrowed from them.

  5. It seems to me that we have known for millennia that horses are prey animals – not sure then just who you would credit with that ‘original description’. A lifetime of listening, learning and assimilating
    can also make it very difficult to attribute thoughts, phrases and attitudes to their origins!

  6. to quote Ernest Hemingway – I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.
    I’m listening to your every article and appreciate your personal insight. I look forward to your future posts.

  7. Well said! Not sure what transpired to prompt you to write it, but it was stated nicely and accurately. We all learn from others and no one has all the answers. The old experts that have passed from this life all learned from someone who taught them. We need to make sure the next generation gets the benefit of what we have learned. There are a lot of “experts” out there. Some we have run across haven’t spent much time working from the back of a horse. The old cowboys we know tend to work more and talk less. You have to learn from them by watching. Thanks for your post and your thoughts!

  8. Good for you on your response to the individual who for some reason misinterpreted what plagiarism really is. The simple fact is that horses are prey animals. That is not a “coined phrase” it is a commonly known fact. I personally LOVE your website and have learned much from you. Keep up the excellent work.
    Kind regards,