Now I know I’ve written about this before, but it seems like I need to bring it up again because there are just so many people that are STILL stuck on this whole “respect” thing!
Over in the horsey communities on FB, there’s a lot of talk about respect. People have pretty much narrowed it down to 2 aspects. Either the horse doesn’t respect your space, or the horse doesn’t respect you as the herd leader. So we’re going to look at those two things and figure out, what’s up with that?!
Your Horse Doesn’t Respect You As Herd Leader
Ok, so lets just say for the sake of this post, that their actually IS a herd leader. There isn’t, but I’m just going to say that there is. You know, for the sake of this post. So the herd leader is a pretty important horse, right? All the other horses follow him. Or her. Lets just say “her”, because most people seem to have decided that the herd leader is a mare, not the stallion. Well, some people anyway. You can find more on all that here, here, and here.
So this lead mare, she’s pretty important. She leads the herd, right? She decides where they’re all going to go and when they’re going to go there. She decides when everyone can eat, drink, sleep or play. I think. I mean, that seems to be what most people imply when they talk about how the horse is currently not respecting the human as herd leader.
“The lead mare would never let another horse do that”.
“The herd only moves when the herd leader moves”.
“My horse tried to eat out of the bucket I was carrying” = “She doesn’t respect you as herd leader”.
“My horse gets distracted when I’m riding and is worried about the cows in the next pasture” = “He doesn’t respect you as herd leader” 😳
Anyway, there is one thing that is pretty consistent about the “herd leader” or “lead mare” that I’m sure everyone agrees on, but never, ever mentions. SHE NEVER LEAVES THE HERD.
That kind of complicates your role as herd leader, don’t you think? After all, YOU’RE NEVER THERE!
I mean, really, when was the last time you were out there ruling over your herd? Actually, come to think of it, where are you right now? You’re probably sitting at home, curled up on the couch reading this, totally not leading your herd.
So lets just assume for a second that a herd of horses decides to forgive the lead mare for being absent for hours, or even days, on end and still deems her a worthy herd leader. There’s still this other little problem to you taking the position of lead mare. YOU’RE NOT A HORSE. Yes, there it is, I’ve said it. No offense to you, but your horse is NEVER, EVER going to mistake you for a horse. You don’t whinny, nicker, or neigh, you suck at the whole mutual grooming thing, and lets just face it, you can’t even run properly!
I really just cannot imagine how anyone came up with this bright idea and how it is that this idea is so widely accepted. The logic is just too…well, there really isn’t any logic to the idea, now is there? It’ll probably be better for both human and horse if humans give up the idea of trying to be horses, and instead, just be humans! Find another, more logical explanation for your horse’s failure to obey your every whim, like maybe the fact that your horse really can’t understand a single word that you say? Or possibly because whatever your horse wants to do is far more appealing than what you want her to do! Maybe your horse doesn't understand the concept of "ownership" and doesn't actually know that you think he's your slave and should obey your every whim?
Your Horse Doesn’t Respect Your Space
I get this, I really do. Nobody wants their horse to run them over or knock them over, but you can’t really blame the horse for something you didn’t teach him.
So here’s the thing about personal space. It differs from culture to culture. People from Brazil, for example, have a much smaller personal space requirement than Americans. Personal space also differs according to sex and relationship. So 2 women may stand closer together than 2 men, while a woman and a man would probably stand even further apart, due to the woman’s personal space needs in that scenario, unless they were intimate, or on their way to becoming intimate, in which case their personal space requirements would be far less. Two women that have just met would probably stand much further apart than two women who have been friends for years. A mother and child might stand very close together, until that child is a teenager…
Personal space even differs according to upbringing and social status, so if your parents modeled a need for a great amount of personal space, you’re likely to need a great amount of personal space as well. In an office setting, you may stand closer to your coworkers than you might stand to you boss.
Lastly, personal space requirements can change according to where you are. Standing on the street talking to a stranger, you’ll probably default to your usual space requirements for that scenario, whereas if you were in a nightclub talking to a stranger, you might be willing to compromise that space requirement just to be able to hear the person.
See how complicated this whole “personal space” thing is? So when you start talking about your horse not respecting your personal space, well, exactly which personal space are you referring to? Your street and stranger personal space or your intimate friend personal space? And how would your horse know what your personal space requirements are anyway? He's a horse, you're a human...there's some serious cultural differences there! Not only that, but respect is a 2 way street kind of thing and I’m betting that you touch, hug, hang on, and ride your horse whenever you feel like it, right? Now who has the respect problem?
Don’t get me wrong, I know how frustrating it can be having your horse walking on top of you. Robin Hood almost broke my ankle once because when I stepped forward with my right foot, he stepped forward with his left, stepping on the inside of my left foot. Luckily I was able to shove him away and yanked my foot out from under his before he put his full weight on it, but that could have been a very bad break. Obviously he needs to learn something about my personal space needs, but it’s up to me to teach him, not up to him to somehow magically read my mind and know how much personal space I need at any given time in any given place.
Ok, lets recap! You get to be you, the human, instead of the "herd leader" and you get to create a horse/human relationship with your horse, in which you teach him/her about your personal space because you don’t want to get stepped on or knocked over. Simple, no?