Thursday, October 18, 2012

Their Trust Almost Breaks My Heart

Just think about how much trust our horses place in us - those of you who have adopted and worked with wild horses will know this even more than the rest of us, but it's really true of all horses.  Those who have worked with horses who have been abused or neglected know this even more truely.

Just think about all the things we ask our horses to do, which they do willingly for us, and how much trust that takes -

we ask them to stand tied, or to stand still when ground tied - the ability to move is essential to the prey animal they are.

we ask them to hold their feet up for us, disabling their ability to move in case of danger.

we ask them to accept farrier work, or visits from the vet, often involving unpleasant poking with needles or worse.

we ask them to be haltered, and to lead and follow us - are we worthy of the trust to be their leader?

we ask them to trust us that they will be fed and cared for - are we worthy of that trust?

they enter the confined space of a horse trailer at our request and take long journeys with us to strange places.

we confront them with new tasks they do not understand at first, and new places, and even new horse herds and companions.

Just think of the trust it takes for a horse to let us do all those things, and more.

What made me think of this was my in-hand work with Red and Pie a few days ago.  One of my fellow boarders has what I call a "victory stand" - it's like the round stand elephants stand on in the circus - it's made of heavy aluminum and has a non-slip top - it's probably at least a foot high.  Red's apparently done some obstacle work in the past - he walks across a wooden platform just fine - so I tried him out with it first.  With Red, there's still a bit of resistance in there - if you ask him to do something he'd rather not do, he can stall on you, or if he takes a mind to explore something or go somewhere you can be the last thing on his mind.  There's no harm in any of that any more - he's not trying to dominate, take control or protect himself, he's just easily distracted and the connection/softness I have with him still comes and goes, but he comes back much more quickly now.  So with the stand, I got a few minutes of resistance, but when he understood that it was important to me, he pawed heavily a few times to test the surface and then stepped right up and stood proudly with his front feet up until I asked him to back down.

Now Pie was a different case.  He'd clearly never seen such a thing before.  As I was leading him out of the back barn through the door into the arena, he saw the new object, and stopped, snorting.  He thought about heading back the way he'd come but didn't - he came right through the door with no pulling on my part, just because I asked him to.   And he immediately approached the object, snorting and glancing at me from time to time.  As soon as he touched it and I praised him, he was no longer worried about it - that's my Pie!  It took him a moment to figure out that I wanted him to step up on it.  Once he understood what I wanted, it took him less time than Red to step up - he seemed comfortable because I was.  It almost broke my heart - Pie is a horse who can be somewhat standoffish and hard to reach, but he looked to me for guidance and safety and was happy to do what I wanted - what more can you ask?


  1. Nice, and that's why we're always trying to live up to that trust!

  2. There's nothing more heartwarming than the trust they put in us.

  3. When you think about it, it really is an incredible gift our horses give us when they trust our leadership.

    The other day, when I went out into the woods, to do some trail trimming, Toby was at the gate nickering for me. His worrying about me had me almost in tears. It was a tremendous honor to be regarded as such an important "member of his herd (family)."

  4. Amazing how well they trust and read us, loading in a trailer is another fine example

  5. You're clearly a strong, fair leader and have earned your horses' trust. :-) Lovely post.

  6. I am one of those that works with Mustangs and it is the most amazing and emotional experience I have ever felt when you see a wild one start to trust you. That connection and bond is also truly amazing.
    I have had many ups and downs with my very insecure Arab and we would not have made it as far as we have if she didn't trust me 100%. I love hearing others stories on their relationships with their horses, because like you said, all those things we ask our horses to do, whether wild or domestic, and that they do so willingly... Trust is so very special. And it is the most amazing feeling ever!

  7. the trailering thing always gets me. i've ridden back there and know how unpleasant it is. my horse never hesitates to jump into one, even these tiny german ones, simply because i ask. he's been in a trailering accident too.

    then after our horrible bridge accident, he is still willing to walk over little wooden bridges, until i stop him and make him go around, simply because i have bridge terror now.

    one day we were in the woods and heard wolves howling. it was creepy. i was on the ground feeling the adrenaline from it, and then very slowly my horse edged himself around me so that i stood between him and the wolves. "you'll keep me safe."

    i'm not always worthy of such trust, i'm only human.

  8. My Paint Trax, is a horse that does not trust. It took me a full year to get him to see that I will not hurt him, I will protect him, I will keep him safe, or so I thought. I can see now that my work was not enough, 1 month of free time, with very little contact, in the pasture with Danny, and he has quickly reverted back to his solitary soul state of mind. I can sometimes touch him if I have food, but that is it.
    On the other hand, once I have him (halter or bridle) he will do what ever I ask, go anywhere I want. Does that mean he trusts me as a rider? I don't know. But I will say I miss getting to spend time with him now.
    I love your posts.

  9. beautiful post--I often say "thank you, you're such a good boy" to my horse as he amiably goes along with all the weird stuff I ask of him. Yesterday I tied a tic tac box to his right hind fetlock and trotted around the field, calling out "now, now" trying to get the feel for the cadence of his footfalls. Then I hopped off--right out there in the field, next to a log jump, squatted down by his big draft horse feet to untied it while he stood there quietly, with all that nice grass a foot under his nose, and then he stood there for me to clamber back on, me balanced on the jump. So the trust goes two ways--I also trust him! We do ask a lot of them--but these days I am much better at appreciating all he does, and I know he can feel that.

  10. The trust also amazes me. Bonnie trusts me to the extent that she trusts any human. Rosie on the other hand - she will try anything I ask as long as I remain calm, my intention is clear, and I'm patient while she works it out in her head.

    When I go out on trails or go to trail\obstacle clinics. If something looks iffy for her weight, like bridges or platforms, I won't do them as she trusts me completely and I will never intentionally do anything to damage that trust.

  11. These are the days where my heart literally swells with pride and animal connection. It's truly an honor to be able to work with these animals and create a bond. I could cry over it! :) A happy cry of course.

  12. We can't ask anything more than that!! You're right about all those issues and more...they trust far more than we'll probably ever realize. It's overwhelming to me when I really think about all that they have to offer, and how much they are willing to invest in us feeble humans. They don't have to, but they do. It is amazing and oh, so humbling to me. And heartbreaking that so many people out there take everything that they're willing to do, the trust that they choose to place - for granted; and even expected and not appreciated. We humans are an arrogant lot, and if we'd be willing to humble ourselves and be open-minded would realize just how much we could learn from our equine friends. Horses are an incredible gift and are far more deserving of our respect than they usually get. We sure could learn a lot from them about forgiveness as well. I'm truly in awe of this magnificent and courageous animal. Good post Kate! I love the path you're on...

  13. Ann...from...Outer Banks of NC....said.....such devotion ....who could ask for anything more......what a passion and love for horses......I'll take that any day....the bond and trust is so overwhelming....It's so good to love them with all your heart.....

  14. Kate - I love your thoughts about trust. Without trust, no relationship, horse or human, can grow and flourish.

  15. This is something I think about all the time. It doesn't matter if I'm just putting a halter on or if I'm loading into a trailer. I'm always asking myself, what does she think of this? How is she feeling about this? Horses amaze me in so many ways. Love this post.

    *way behind on my reading*


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