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What's in a name?

I wanted to talk this week about stereotyping horses. Some people are quick to put labels on horses - naughty, pushy, stupid. And some people are just as quick to put labels on breeds. Personally, I think Shetlands get the worst deal on that but we've all heard derogatory things being said about Thoroughbreds, Welsh Cobs, Arabs. I could go on. And sometimes it's mares. Sometimes it's chestnut mares.

The problem I have is that, in the 12 years I have been doing this job, I don't really see it. Yes, some horses are more sensitive about noise, touch, smells. Some have certain places they don't like being touched on their body. Mares do tend to be a little worse about being touched on their flanks, but only until you show them you are going to be gentle and consistent. The rest is pretty much things that horses have learned from being around humans. Things they have learned to protect themselves from pain, discomfort, anxiety, fear, lack of understanding. Behaviours don't come out of nowhere. They don't exist in the wild. Horses learn them to deal with all the random stuff that we throw at them. And I actually think it's incredible that horses are so tolerant of what we ask.

So why do they tolerate us? Mainly because they want to connect. They are hardwired to connect to a herd. As much as we are their care givers, we also become part of the herd and I think it's easy to forget that. Remember that next time you start to give your horse a 'label'.

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