We hear “make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult” and we feel good about our ideas sometimes. We’re giving the horse choices. I’ve seen this method applied in ways where the horse is forced to choose between two discomforts – the discomfort created outside the trailer, for example, vs. the discomfort of being in the trailer, away from the person and the discomfort they create.
What if we stop to think about the questions we’re asking? What if we’re asking the wrong questions, and what we want the horse to do is not appropriate, or is not asked correctly? What if we made sure the questions we asked had a theme and a goal – such as building trust and a partnership? We would ask very different questions, I believe.
It’s not what you say, but how you say it, so the saying goes. If what you ask your horse causes him to lose faith in you, to get a release from avoiding you, and teaches him to escape, they are either the wrong questions or asked in the wrong way at the wrong time.
We are told we must be leaders, and that what we say must go – horses follow, people lead. But being a leader is more than just calling the shots.
Being a leader means intimately knowing who you are leading, and preserving and caring for their needs. It means leading by example, not dictating from the safe seats. It means knowing how to ask questions and the timing of those questions so that you build confidence. Confidence is built by repeated successes, so you as a leader have the responsibility to set things up so those who you lead can succeed and enjoy doing so.
A good leader does not make anyone, human or animal, do anything, but develops the curiosity and desire for them to do it themselves. A good leader isn’t focused on winning, or getting credit or looking good, but on instilling the desire to do the right thing.
Does your horse love to follow you? Or does he avoid you and chose the lesser of two discomforts only when forced to? There is a world of difference in what we ask and how.