This is the episode that is airing this week on Horse Master—it’s about a horse that learned to run off every time his owner longed him. It is one that stands out in my memories for many reasons. Not the least of which that this was a case of a horse that learned bad behavior, not because he was a bad or even naughty horse, but because he was simply lacking training and leadership.
Cosmo was a youngish (I think he was four) warm blood of some sort—I believe he was an Anglo-Trakehner (that part of my memory is not so keen), What struck me about him right away was that he looked like a very kind, calm and willing horse, but he acted like a total jerk. Generally a horse’s “look” (facial structure and body type) will give a pretty good indication of what he’s like; and although Cosmo was very naughty—terrible ground manners and would jerk the rope out of your hands and run off when he didn’t want to do something—he definitely did not have the look of a “bad” tempered horse.
The other interesting part of this particular horse puzzle was that his owner, Erika, was very experienced, very competent and a seasoned show competitor and fox hunter. This gal knows how to handle horses—she should’ve known better (and did). Why then, had she let Cosmo learn to be such a brat? Erika knew she had spoiled Cosmo and was an incredibly good sport on the show. All she really needed to do was step up to the plate and take control of this horse—set some rules and boundaries, punish him when he is wrong, praise him when he is good and give him consistent leadership.
In Erika’s case, she had raised Cosmo from a baby and although her other adult horses were expected to have good manners and be obedient, somehow she never got in that mode with Cosmo and he learned how to call all the shots. It wasn’t so bad when he was a little baby, but a 4 years old and 110#, not so cute. Once Erika took control, Cosmo responded beautifully—an ideal candidate for the TV show. A perfect case of the human needing to change, not the horse. Have you ever made a change in yourself or the way you handle a horse that gave you immediate results? I see it in my clinics all the time and love to see it!
It reminds me of all the hundreds of emails I have gotten from people that say they bought a nicely trained horse, only to find out a month later that the horse was seemingly not trained at all, when what has really happened is that the horse had come untrained through poor handling. People are always quick to blame the seller—he must have drugged the horse, he ripped me off, etc. But the truth is, horses thrive off leadership and authority and if you are not the leader, then he is. Few horses will voluntarily lope around the arena with you on their back, unless they have reason to believe in your authority. The good news is that if you really did go out and buy a nicely trained horse—he’s still trained—you just need to change you.
Do you know someone that is ruining a good horse from lack of authority, control or leadership? Some horses are more easily ruined than others and some require constant maintenance in this department, while others happily look up to your authority. But any horse can be messed up with poor handling. Have you ever taken a horse like this and turned him around? It’s very satisfying work!
Enjoy the ride,