Breaking, Starting, Training and Stress

I have been working with horses and people for over 25 years and during that time I have trained many horses how to carry riders or what is called breaking or starting a young colt. Now, I know that sounds bad and at one point in time, breaking a horse meant exactly that. Breaking their spirit so people could ride them and use them for working purposes such as rounding up cattle, transportation, and hauling goods for people. And for the most part, the techniques that were used to break a horse were “successful.” The horse would carry a rider or pull a wagon or chase cattle. However, the horse was usually miserable. They were living in fear and anxiety because of the ways they were treated and “trained.” You see, horses were basically scared to death and exhausted during the breaking process and only until they “gave in” would the “training” be over. So you see why it was called breaking. Essentially, the horse’s spirit was broken and the horse was forced to accept what they had to do for the humans. Horses were forced into submission to the will of humans. There was no partnership, no respect, no understanding of the horse, just a mentality that the horse was a beast of burden and was to be used for work purposes and that was all the horse was to be used for. And you can just imagine the stress the horses carried back then. Now, please understand that not all people looked and treated horses this way, even way back when. And that is a good thing for both people and horses of today. There were people who disagreed with the breaking methods and started to learn about horses and how they behaved and acted when they were exhausted and scared and when they were at peace. Slowly, people started to look and treat horses differently. They saw them in a different and light and started to develop ways to start a young horse without pain and suffering. To partner with the horse rather than be an adversary to the horse. And so, the natural horsemanship movement started and continues to grow and develop today. In today’s day and age, horses are looked at more as partners and helpers for people rather than just a working tool. There are still working horses all over still chasing cattle and pulling wagons, however, for the most part, those horses are not scared to death and exhausted. And yet…..there are still some horses that carry stress from past events that can cause them to be miserable. And you thought that carrying stress from the past was just a human thing? Nope.

Horses who are carrying stress from the past can act out in many different ways. Some ways include being aggressive with people, other horses, or with other animals such as dogs. And then, they can become depressed, withdrawn and shut down, and lethargic. Do any of these ways of being sound familiar? I would think so, since humans can act the same way when carrying stress from the past, which can cause us to get “stuck” in life. This too, can happen to horses. And that is what was happening to many horses who were “broke.” They would become unpredictable and start acting out in either aggressive or passive ways because the stress from the past was too much to handle in the present moment, and that is how horses live their lives. In the present moment. So having too much from the past would push them over their limits in the present moment and they would start acting out. Do this pattern of too much stress and then acting out and there you have it; a behavioral problem that could have devastating affects on the humans that were riding and using the horses. Many people were killed in the past (and still can be killed today due to these same issues) due a horse “losing it” and attacking the human or bucking them off so hard that the human was killed upon impacting the ground. Either way, it was not good for either the horse or the human.

Humans needed to learn to understand horses better and how they handle pain (both physically and emotionally) and then start developing better ways to train a horse to help us rather than just abuse a horse into submission. Humans then needed to develop better ways to help horses move through their past stresses to be able to live a longer and healthier life. And from these developments, humans also learned that they too could learn how to move through their past stresses and be happier and healthier in the present moment. But that meant there was going to be pain involved in this “moving through” process and pain usually makes both horses and humans miserable. Unless….

Namaste, my friend

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