Why gentle the slow way?
I believe before answering this question I must first address the fact that the fast path does, indeed, yield results. For the whole history of our working of horses, dominating techniques have been the standard. With the flash and results people have been impressed and inspired to try to get the training down at the fastest pace possible. So, why slow things down when gentling an untouched horse, when trainers are getting jaw dropping results in 90 days at competitions across the country?
Let me answer that question with a question; what is your end goal with your Mustang, feral, or PMU? Do you want to forge a friendship or create a tool?
If you answered that you are seeking a friendship, then you need to think about how you have made new friends in the past. How did those relationships form? Did your longest standing friends begin in confusion that you pushed through with force to make them understand you are there for them? When you meet someone new do you strive to be seen as the leader or do you find common ground and show that you are a compassionate and caring person?
Let’s go back to that idea of first impressions. While approaching a new untouched horse you should first realize that you are not the first encounter your horse has had with people. Their first encounter with bipeds is usually their gathering. We are already perceived as predators, we smell, and behave as predators; we are by nature a trophy species. This is validated by the fact that the herds are chased and then put through the most traumatic experience of their lives; segregated from their families and pushed into tight spaces and transported in trailers. Something that they cannot possibly understand to be a good thing.
When you enter into the pen with an untouched horse, you are carrying the definition of what two legs already mean to them. When you first enter into their confined space you are an instant threat. It is in this moment that you have the choice to validate their knowledge or to show them that all bipeds are not created equal and that you are different from what they have already witnessed. When you chase, corner, restrain or flood, you are validating yourself as a predator. In contrast, if you slow things down and show them that you are listening to their needs for comfort and respect the time needed for them to understand, you are validating a partnership. Horses are intelligent and can come to understand what we want and who we are, but the first touch will follow them for life.
When a horse is given the chance to observe and given a voice that is heard, they will become intrigued and curious. Which will create motivation to learn and explore. We all have had lessons that we learned because we had to and lessons that we sought out because we were curious to know. Which lessons did you take to heart? Which lessons did you keep exploring on your own?
We have a choice every time we work our horses, whether it be gentling or working with a horse on transitions, we can use their language to communicate or to dominate. We can choose to use it against them or to simply communicate (which is the purpose of language). If you use force and fear one day the two of you will come across something scarier or more forceful than you, and you will find your control over them is an illusion. If you offer them support and a voice as they explore and get to know the human world, they will look to you when they are concerned.
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