For me, the secret for a good relationship with a horse is a bit like the one for a good marriage: you accept each other the way you are.
You meet the (wo)man of your dreams, you fall in love, you get married, you live together…and then what often happens is that we see little things that we don’t like. He leaves his socks lying around, she never puts her dirty cup in the dishwasher, he is always a bit late, she has a tendency to pay bills in the last moment. She wants to watch a romantic movie, he likes action films. Whereas we can often compromise when he are in love, after a while people can start bickering and these little things can evolve into more serious problems. We might think: I wish you were different.
I meet the exact same situation with many humans and their horses. “He always does this”, “he never pays attention”, “Can you already quit that?” And in many cases I have a feeling that I’m watching an old couple.
But we should not forget that we once fell in love with that beautiful animal. That we bought him for a reason.
Of course over time, we get to know each other better. Horses can do these little or bigger things that can get us angry, too. Some of it might be taught by humans, others belong to the horse’s character. Some horses are just very introverted. While we can encourage them to open up more, the basic tendency might never change. A very insecure horse can be trained to accept different objects and situations, and we can build up more trust, but he might still spook in an unknown situation.
And for me, it is very important that we can accept our horses the way they are, and even rather figure out their strengths than complaining about the weaknesses.
For example, Weto can be painfully slow. It takes him a good bit to understand new things and he generally has low energy. But this can be a big advantage when you travel to clinics or for training abroad, because he will not overreact and do something stupid when he gets insecure, and he will generally feel less threatened by things. He is very stable that way and you can rely on him 100%. He’s your anchor.
Nazir is an insecure extrovert, the exact opposite to Weto. He can be very reactive, alert, spooky. He rather relies on himself than on people. On the other hand, he learns extremely quickly, never forgets anything you taught him, and training with him can be super fun and dynamic. He loves to solve tasks or learn new tricks. But he might not be your horse for a parade. He can be brilliant, but he can also leave you hanging in front of an audience. Expecting him to be 100% calm, all the time, is simply unfair.
Minor is extremely self-confident and has a lot of grit. Leading training took a bit longer with him, but under no circumstances did I want to kill that will power. I was rather looking for ways of how to use it for me. His self-confidence will be a big asset later, I know it.
So while we can teach horses many things, and develop together with them, we should be careful that we don’t try to change the way they are. As a species, and as an individual. We might not be able to do everything with every horse, or at least not without braking their spirit or making them uncomfortable. And we might also have to think about what we would like to do with a horse before we buy it, so that this horse can also be happy in his job.
And when a horse does change a lot for us, of his own will, because he trusts us and feels comfortable, then, of course, it is a gift we can gladly take. But other than that, we are doing us and our horses a big favour when we can accept their character the way it is.