One of the most asked questions that people seem to want to know the answer in this profession has always made me laugh to myself. I supppose this could be directed at any pet or animal you might have responsibility over or care for, what are they thinking about? How do they think about humans?
Well I would say the first part to the answer would be simple, they have to have judgment but most of it is based off instinct. So for instance if you always meet them at the pasture gate with a carrot, sorry they aren’t running because you care, they are coming as fast as they can to get the treat. Then I always get the reply,”well I know my horse cares about me cause he only runs to meet me at the gate when I call but he won’t let anyone else catch him”, well has anyone else ever offered him that treat consistently. A horse’s judgment comes from past experiences as should our judgement.
Horses intuitively have a unique spirit of self preservation. Before we ever came into the horses life, he has learned to save and take care of only his own skin. And how many people take that personally? Well it is a part of their nature for survival, they never asked us to take care of them. Horses are fine by themselves, they can eat, sleep, and drink water without us holding their hoof and as funny as that may sound I wouldn’t be surprised if many people do keep that close of tabs on their pets. But the truth is that in the horses nature, humans were never a part of the recipe for the horses survival. You may pay the bills, buy the hay, give them water and treats, and even babysit them but they do not look at you any differently than another person who would fill the same tasks. If there was a house fire they are not going to come get you out of bed and save you, not that we would expect them to, as an extreme example. But let’s think of a more reasonable example, what if there was a weight on their back that was clamped down and it moved suddenly, well then they would react in the way they only know how and we would be laying in the dust wondering why they bucked us off. See a horse finds only what in it for him and then if he is threatened or even feels threatened, he will run. Don’t take that personally because a horse will not do these things just to you, he will do it to who threatens him. You might say “well I don’t threaten him” but when was the last time “shoving a tube of wormer in there mouth and squirting paste that tastes like fake apples” happened out in nature. If you were a horse you would react the same way they all do to a worming process, lift your head and back up at the very least if you didn’t rear and strike out as well.
This is why starting a horse under saddle is such a careful important job. He has to relearn the use of his actions and reactions and learn some form of self control and responsibility. That is also the reason why the best horse trainers are known not to lose their temper when working with a crazy or dangerous horse. It sure isn’t because the horse ‘likes’ them that the horse reacts in a more gentle manner. There is just a higher degree of respect that the horse shows that person. For some this looks like magic or ‘whispering’, really it’s just your perspective.