Monday, 31 October 2016

What does it mean to earn a horse's "trust,"?

Research in equine-assisted mental health has explored how people develop trust by working with horses, but is trust the same for horses as it is for humans?
Social psychologists agree that trust involves giving up some control and accepting vulnerability, with the expectation of being protected from harm.
Dr Robin Foster, Researcher and equine behaviour specialist says
“The balance of power in a relationship affects the balance of control.... the employer-employee and parent-child relationships have an unequal balance of power, with a leader and follower. ...Some   leaders control through intimidation, and aggression…
... most interactions involve an imbalance of power with the human as leader and the horse as follower. Consider, for example, jumping serves the rider’s interests—recognition and a ribbon! The horse, however, takes a risk by jumping, and given a choice most horses would probably take the safe route and go around. An important question is, why does the horse cooperate and jump? Does past experience [ indicate] that the rider will ensure his safety? Or does he jump to avoid pain that might result by not cooperating?”
She continues “Trust is fragile, and repeated trust violations can damage both present and future relationships.”
So, researchers agree that horsemen can earn a horse’s “trust” by:
·       using consistent and skilled handling techniques (cues, movements)
·       be tuned in to the to the horse’s emotional state (tension/relaxation)
·       provide frequent, positive experiences
So let’s go out and be trustworthy riders!

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