similarities in both training horses and teaching children
I have been teaching children for sixteen years and training horses for almost three times that. I believe that there are many similarities between the two. I have trained young horses from birth as well as re-training abused and neglected horses rescued from the “killer pens.” I have raised my own three children from birth. The children I teach are labeled, “emotionally disturbed.” They come from a variety of abusive or neglectful situations.
I do not believe in throwaway creatures, human or equine. Given a chance, I have found that more times than not, if given time, fair requests, praise, and knowledge, both will come around and no longer be a thrown away member of society.
1. Relationships must come first. I have found that the relationship between myself and the student, or horse must be established before rules and discipline or even praise will work. Without some kind of a trust built up, I am just another in a long line of folks who want to tell them what to do and MAKE them behave MY way. Under these circumstances, even praise has no meaning. The relationship must come first and must be real. The wonderful part is that under most circumstances, if one is genuine in desiring the relationship, even the most damaged soul will begin to open up in pretty short order.
2. There is nothing to be gained by getting into a power struggle. A young colt, or frightened horse, when backed into a corner will often react out of fear in ways that have a tendency to get them in trouble and often a bad reputation or labels that follow them throughout their lives. Such is the dilemma that many of my young students find themselves in. Like one another, the two often have similar “Rap” sheets: “stabbed teacher with a pencil, kicked owner, destroyed his desk, broke loose and ran away, disrespectful attitude, constantly pulls on the reins then rears.” In the end, children land in juvenile detention, horses go to the “killer” pens. Allow them to figure things out for themselves.
3. Be absolutely consistent and fair. A desired behavior pattern will come about through firm, fair and consistent rules and consequences. Any inconsistencies are seen as loopholes and quickly taken advantage of. If I want a student to stop swearing, I need to have a plan, tell them the plan and then be quick when giving out consequences-positive as well as negative. If I want a horse to stop biting, the same is true , punishment as well as rewards must be quickly dispersed.
4. Never hold a grudge. Staying angry at a child or a horse only damages your credibility in that trust relationship you have established. A child needs to know you care for them enough to discipline them fairly, that you can be angry at their behavior and still care deeply about them. A horse is no different. One must be able to correct a horses’ behavior and as soon as the correct behavior is shown, a pat and a “good horse” is given. As suddenly as they were in trouble they must also become the best child, best horse again. The world can be set right as instantly as it was shaken up.