Trust-Based Horsemanship

Posted by harmonio on November 29, 2013

When you think of trust-based horsemanship what does it mean to you? In the equine industry this has become a popular term, with the focus on getting the horse to trust you. This is great, except that for a horse to truly trust us we must trust them…which are where things often get off track.

When the focus is still on dominating the horse, even through non-violent or non-aggressive means, true trust is not possible. For when we believe that we have the right to dominate another being, we are saying we believe that we know more than that being. We are saying that we are not open to a perspective outside our own. We are playing God. We are not allowing them to have a voice. If they are now allowed a voice, they are submitting to dominance, not entering an authentic partnership due to trust. As with so much of my learning, a pony named Breeze has been my teacher on what trust-based horsemanship really is.

My relationship with my pony Breeze now is completely different than it was when we were living in California. When I moved back to the island my friend bought Breeze and they stayed in California. Last year she gave Breeze back to me, and Breeze arrived on my farm. Our relationship is very different this time around. One day when we were down at the ring I realized why. I trust her.

I trust that she is who she is. I trust that she is a horse, whose instincts often differ from the way I would like her to act. I trust that she has insecurities, as do I, that don’t go away just because someone tells us that we shouldn’t feel that way. I trust that she loves to come out and work. I trust that if she tells me that she doesn’t want to work she has a good reason, usually that she is sore. I trust that if I take the time to listen she will always share her reason. I trust that she always tells me the truth. I trust that because she is a horse she doesn’t make up stories. I trust that for her there is no such thing as good or bad emotions or behaviour. I trust that any emotion or behaviour she shares is simply her giving me information. I trust that she trusts me and will work with me if what I ask of her is fair, reasonable and safe.

I also realize what changed in me to be able to trust her in these ways. I let go of my agenda. I want her near me simply for the joy she brings into my life. I no longer have expectations of her being a good kids pony or a fancy show pony. I no longer judge her for not being quiet enough or for being too spooky. I no longer judge her for not being who I wanted her to be. These days I embrace her for who she is. Some days that is an amazingly insightful pony that is able to reflect to my clients the deepest parts of themselves. Other days she is a feisty pony who wants to gallop and play with her friends. Other days she gently touches my friend’s daughter who is near a pony for the first time in her life. And each time I embrace her exactly how she is our connection deepens and I notice she once again has filled my heart with joy. To me this is what trust-based horsemanship is.