What if, instead of teaching horses to accept the touch and handling of any person, we taught people to handle each horse according to their needs?
I think if we’re honest, even if we love horses, there’s a little bit of selfish intent involved when it comes to petting and handling them. Do I want to pet them for me, or to benefit them? If the intent is to benefit them, then the approach, manner, duration and feel of the petting would be entirely different.
Many of us haven’t thought much of how our hands touch horses, and what it feels like to each horse when we pet, we just do it. We approach with the task in mind, we get the task done, and we leave happy we petted something. But to the horse, they may have become worried or tense as we approached, and our pretting may have created agitation or worry, and as we leave we’ve cemented another interaction of tension, avoidance, or worry.
To approach a horse in the way they need brings confidence. To pet a horse in the way they need brings trust. And to leave a horse feeling seen and listened to builds a relationship. When I get one who’s wary of human touch, I’m not looking to make them accept whatever people do- I’m looking to help them build a relationship with me, and with their person, and to teach others around them how to handle the horse.