Establishing a Proper Relationship with Equine
Part VI: Trust
by Debbie Harper
Trust: 1) To place
confidence in, rely
The accomplishment of confidence is complete when two individuals develop confidence in each other in all circumstances. This state of existence is known as trust. Trust between you and your equine occurs when you believe that your animal is acting in your best interest, and your animal believes that you are acting in their best interest. Such occurrences are rare, but do exist. I know this from observing horses and their owners, including my husband Rick and his stallion, Baladdin. Baladdin was considered dangerous, unrideable and destined to become a gelding or worse. He was difficult to handle and scared of his own shadow. In the wrong hands there wouldnt have been much hope for a good life, or a good outcome to his story. Just as respect is easier to lose than gain, so is trust. Through constant implementation of the above mentioned principles, Baladdin learned to trust. Now Baladdin is a competitive trail and endurance horse who is literally willing to put his life down for Rick. In turn, Rick guards Baladdin diligently to make sure that he doesnt go so far in trying to please that he possibly injures himself in the process. He trusts Rick to protect him and look after his best interest and Rick trusts him to give him his best in any situation including his protection should he need it. This was not achieved overnight. It has been an on-going process for the past eight years.
In another situation between me and my mare Fantasy, this complete trust has not yet been achieved, but is a work in progress and wonderful to participate in. In most situations we have achieved the trust needed to succeed in competitive trail. However, in certain circumstances my mare knows instinctively that I am not looking at the whole picture and literally believes she knows better than I do and I admit that often she does. I give Fantasy the credit for a successful outcome. On the other hand, when a traumatic situation occurs on the trail Fantasy looks to me for reassurance. She gets the reassurance she needs and we go on with our ride successfully and have a great time. We have only worked together for four years and are still developing a bond of complete trust. But through time together continually striving to achieve all five principles we will complete the transformation that Baladdin and Rick enjoy. Mutual trust must be developed over time by building positive experiences together in various situations. To place your trust in an animal that you are unfamiliar with is foolish. Building the bond of trust with an animal that you know takes time.
All aspects of a proper relationship are perfected through time. The foundation, or starting point, is gained through understanding. As the hierarchy goes, next is the development of communication, then the establishment of confidence, then mutual respect, and final step in building a relationship is completed when mutual trust has been achieved. Trust is developed through time by building confidence in situation after situation. This obviously requires spending time with your equine. No living being on earth remains the same, but rather is in a state of constant change. Your equine knows this as surely as he knows that the social order of his own herd is not constant, but rather is a never ending struggle for dominance. Time spent away from your equine diminishes the level of trust, and thus requires more positive experiences together to reestablish your relationship.
To establish trust in your animal you must be willing to surrender your doubts, fears, and negative thoughts. This is not done foolishly, but with careful consideration of what your relationship is currently with your equine and what you want that relationship to become. As stated in the definitions of trust in the beginning of this article, you must learn to rely on your animal and to commit yourself to the care of your equine. For trust to be mutual, you must teach your animal to do the same for you. This does not come easily or quickly, but it is achievable. If your equine fails you, it is up to you to show forgiveness and to work harder at developing all aspects of your relationship with him. If you fail your animal, it is mistake, but can be corrected. Amazingly, when we do fail our animals they are always quick to forgive us even when it is not deserved. We are responsible for the situation our equine is in. We are responsible for our own environment and circumstances surrounding our existence, and that of our animals, not vice versa. When a person knowingly violates the trust that their equine has placed in them, that person has demonstrated a total disregard for true horsemanship. To be worthy of your equines trust, you must have concern for its thoughts, feelings, needs, health, and well being.
If you compete with your equine, beware that the prize never becomes more important than the animal. The proper perspective for competition is that you desire to improve each time you participate, and yet realize that at any given event either you or your animal are subject to having an off day. Just as we are subject to days in which we do not perform our best, so are our animals. Such days require patience and understanding on the part of a good horseman. The display of patience and understanding on these occasions will only enhance the trust that your equine has placed in you. Also, do not be too quick to place the blame on your animal as you are probably experiencing your own inadequacy and are projecting it to your equine.
Its important that you realize that each time you are around your equine or riding him, you are to one degree or another always training. Build on your confidence. You control the situation, so build positive experiences out of all circumstances. View all obstacles, elements, and objects around you as an opportunity to enhance the relationship with your equine, including the unexpected. You need to be the leader. You need to be the one in control, but also learn in time to commit yourself to the care of your equine as they are worthy of such commitment. Most of all, always prove yourself to be worthy of the trust your equine places in you.
In conclusion of this series of articles, realize that the knowledge shared here comes from a life of experiences with equine and through a dedication to learn from them. Nothing we have discussed comes easily, nor does the establishment of a proper relationship. It is our hope that you have gained insight into the possibility of achieving more rewarding experiences with your animals, just as we have with our own. If you doubt that your equine has the ability to relate to you as described in this article then it will not happen. Your relationships will never become more than you believe they can. In all relationships, you must be willing to give if you want to receive. If you want your equine to understand you, you must strive to understand them first. If you want to be heard, you must listen. Project confidence, and you will be confided in. If you wish to be respected, show respect. Learn to trust if you want to be trusted. These are the principles that will allow you to build a proper relationship with your equine. We hope that through this series of articles we have helped you and your equine to enjoy a good life together and succeed with your dreams.
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Updated: October 2005.