Horses are natural followers that seek leaders. In a wild herd, there may be 20 horses in a band with only one lead mare. That lead mare has a lot of responsibility. She must maintain the safety, comfort, and health of the entire herd. Horses find comfort in holding a subordinate position in the herd because they know that their leader is taking care of them. It is only in the absence of a fair and effective leader that the horse assumes the position. We can look to the lead mare to learn the leadership qualities that we should emulate.
A lead mare is the epitome of balance. She is noble without pride, graceful but powerful, assertive but not aggressive, firm but fair. She maintains her position of leadership without degrading or domineering her subordinates. When we enter a partnership with a horse, they are looking for a leader in us. If we can learn to listen to the needs of our horse, adapt to their needs, and bring out the best in them, they will make immeasurable efforts for us.
When developing horses, we must master the ability to administer love and leadership in equal doses. Horses are both incredibly sensitive and incredibly powerful, all at the same time. We can easily run into issues if we only approach horses with the sensitive side in mind because we end up denying the horse's mental stability or get hurt by the powerful side because we haven't established our leadership. On the other hand, we run into similar issues when we only approach the powerful side. We may get the horse under control, but we lose their willingness and play drive. In order to develop a confident and willing horse that is a good learner, we must be able to recognize the time to take a sensitive approach and the time to be firm.
We must be as soft as possible but as firm as necessary in order to be fair and effective to our horses. When we ignore the soft, our horses don't get the opportunity to become light and willing. When we ignore the firm, the soft never means anything. We must balance both ends of the spectrum, not more one than the other.
When we have an understanding of the psychology of the horse, we can follow the platinum rule of treating our horses the way they want to be treated! This will create the bond that we all seek. It's a feeling that you'll never forget!
Enjoy your Journey!