It isn’t easy to hear, and it isn’t easy to say.
Letting your horse say no is a big adjustment for most of us. The traditional horsemanship “wisdom” that still permeates our world would tell us that the horse doesn’t get to say no, that it’s “disrespectful” and “letting them win” will just cause us problems in the future. But this is one situation where tradition is just peer pressure from dead people. 😉
If you learn to listen to the little “no’s” your horse will never feel like they need to escalate to the big ones – you’ll stay safe and they’ll stay comfortable.
If you let your horse say no, it will give you an opportunity to find a new way to ask, or explain, to allow them to give you an enthusiastic yes.
If your horse learns that you listen when they say no, they will be much more willing to give whatever you’re asking a try, because they know you will listen if they become uncomfortable.
There are times, of course, when we have to insist because of an emergency situation, but let them say No whenever you can, and you’ll find that your horse will say Yes a lot more often.
Saying No isn’t easy either.
When someone tells you what you should do, especially when it’s someone with a lot of experience or authority, you should listen … but you shouldn’t automatically do what they say.
It’s okay to say No.
And sometimes, it’s your responsibility to say no.
It’s not easy – I once politely declined to use a training stick at a clinic, because I felt it would be the wrong choice for my horse, and the clinician spent the rest of the afternoon loudly defending her use of a stick.
But another time an instructor asked to make a minor adjustment to my harness, and I said, “Sure, you’re the boss!”
“NO!” he said, in a thundering voice that reverberated around the crowd filled stands. “You’re the boss! I don’t know this horse, you are the expert on your horse, you make the decisions.”
Guess which instructor I’m more likely to expose my horse to again in the future?
Our first responsibility is to our horse, and sometimes we have to say no to something that isn’t right for them. Trainers, mentors, farriers, friends – even when they are knowledgeable and well intentioned – don’t know your horse better than you do. It’s important to listen, learn, and then make your own decisions.
“No” might not always be easy, but it is important.
Learn more about important communication skills to advance your horsemanship in the Understanding Your Miniature Horse ebook – register below: