Equines are sentient, intelligent beings, should be respected and cherished as individuals and treated accordingly.
Horses have rights:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst: they should get enough food and water to maintain full health
- Freedom from discomfort: they should have adequate shelter and a comfortable place to rest
- Protection from pain, injury, or disease: they should have a safe place to live, with adequate fencing and if they do get hurt or sick they should get a rapid diagnosis and treatment
- Freedom to express normal behavior: they should have enough space, company of their own kind, and time off work to relax and socialize
- Freedom from fear and distress: they should live in conditions and receive treatment which do not cause suffering
Coercion should be avoided. Being coerced to do something is not pleasant, and using coercion is not a healthy way of interacting with any being (human or animal).
Horses should not be forced to do something they strongly object to. Respecting this creates an active learner and a willing partner. When you wait and earn your horse’s cooperation then when you return to what they didn’t want to do, you will often find that they are now willing to try it.
Horses should have fun spending time with their people. They should look forward to seeing us, and regret the end of the session.
We cannot know for sure what our equines are thinking or feeling. Therefore, it is not useful or charitable to assign negative motives or traits to them—it is much more useful to describe behavior instead. For example, calling a horse “stubborn” or “witchy” is not a great way to think as a trainer. Instead, we might say, “this horse does not go forward when asked” or “this horse is aggressive to other mares.” That opens the way to managing behavior and finding solutions. Personality traits seem permanent. But, I think personalities are just groups of behavior, and behavior is malleable. It helps us cherish our horses since we know the behaviors we find inappropriate are changeable. Over time, we can change our horses’ personalities by changing our own behavior when we are around them.