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Permission First

The more I handle, care for, and play with horses, the more convinced that I am that a very common and basic reason for the concern that horses have with us, or guardedness, is that we go about EVERYTHING with them without much thought or care about how they feel about what we are doing, if they are prepared for what we are doing… and if we have their permission to do what we want to do with them.

I believe that the reason that we go about things this way is in apart due to habit, and also that we don’t value our horse’s permission. What he or she thinks about what we are doing is not as important as what WE think about what we are doing. If we valued asking for or earning our horse’s permission as much as our own self-interests, well, we’d put a lot of time and effort into getting our horse’s permission.

This creates an interesting paradox – without our horse’s full permission, everything we do with our horses is destined to be, at worst, very difficult and unpleasant, or at least not as glorious as things could be. In other words, without our horse’s permission, whatever it is that we ARE getting from our horse is bound to be less than what it could be.

I have a new person working for me and I had asked her to take off my horses’ waterproof blankets after a few torrential rains. I cautioned her with one of my mares, who is not a trusting mare, generally, and especially with someone new. I even suggested that she may want to leave her blanket on and that I will remove it later in the day. She texted me later to report she was able to take off all of the horses’ blankets ( loose in the herd, or at liberty).

I asked her the next day to tell me about her experience with my mare, Aspen. She said that she simply stood near her and talked to her and told her what she wanted to do. After a bit, she was able to unlatch the buckles and clips and Aspen stood very quietly for her. She said that she waited until Aspen gave her the sense that it was okay to proceed… you know, permission. I was thrilled, to say the least. This is exactly how I approach her. It can take 20 seconds to a moment or two- but it’s worth it, because it goes very, very well for both of us. Of course, I also seek permission from my other horses, but I usually get a “green light” in a matter of seconds. I do this by pausing next to them, for just an instant, and get a feel for their receptiveness to what I’m about to do.

Permission, it’s very, very, powerful stuff.

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