“It’s got a voice today”, “Get it ready and I’ll get on it in a minute”, “It just isn’t playing ball today” These are just three examples of things I have heard being said at shows over the last few weeks and I have a question for these people. How do you expect to have a valuable partnership if you don’t even respect your horse enough to use he or she? Two little letters, I and T, and certainly not the biggest issue in the realms of horse welfare, but it really bothers me. IT really bothers me, see what I did there?
I do believe that people can go too far the other way and humanise their horses to the point of madness. (Fuel for another blog perhaps.) But, ‘it’ is so derogatory and harsh. Would you be ok with your friend referring to you as ‘it’? Or your team mate? Or your partner? And if not, why are you using it for your equine partner?
Let’s consider the phrase: “It’s got a voice today.”
Neighing is always a sociable action, they don’t neigh like we would cry out in pain or in anger because this would make them vulnerable to predators in the wild. Neighing or whinnying can be seen as a sign of tension or separation anxiety; a horse separated from the herd will neigh to see if their ‘friends’ are in earshot. A stallion may be more vocal as this is part of the reproductive process. Did you know that a mare will often be more attracted to a stallion with a lower-pitched whinny as they are often more fertile? (There are even sexy voices in the equine world!)
So, what can we take from a horse being vocal? Is he anxious? Is he a stallion who is ‘excited’ today? Does he perhaps need some more warm up to help him settle? Would some transitions and circles help the focus? Are we keeping calm and being a comforting partner for him if he is anxious? Perhaps a more positive/helpful phrase would be: “He is quite vocal today, what can I learn from that and how should I edit my approach?”
And how about “It just isn’t playing ball today.”
A big life lesson that I have learnt, and try and remember, is that the only thing we can truly change is ourselves. If your horse “just isn’t playing ball”, what can you change to try and help? Can you just step back for a moment and look at all the facts? Sometimes I will put my horse back on the lorry or back in his stable so I can take a breath, look at everything and see what can be changed to perhaps help things. Often this helps the ball playing.
But maybe your partnership just isn’t in sync today? I think even the best partnerships can have off days. Neither of you are robots so there are lots of factors. Those great days when you are both totally ‘on it’ happen but so can the opposite.
Would a more positive phrase be “We just aren’t clicking today.”
Just never “it”. You are a team, in it together, good and bad. Speak in a respectful way, think in a respectful way and act in a respectful way. Never it.
Thank you to Daydream Equine Art for the pictures of me and my teammate!