Being a good leader
What does it mean to be a good Leader to your horse? In a lot of training the focus is on "being the boss" being the dominant one or the alpha. I have heard this uttered by many trainers at many competitions and even Natural Horsemanship clinicians.
First, lets talk about Lead versus Dominant energy. In a herd there are Lead, Dominant, and submissive horses. In people there are the same. Lead horses can be in charge of the herd but so can dominant horses. A herd lead by a Lead horse tends to be more balanced and peaceful then a herd lead by a Dominant horse.
So what's the difference? Lead horses are looking out for the highest good of the herd and individual. Lead horses don't make demands they make reasonable requests which seem inviting to horses. They tend to not use aggressive body language in general because they don't have to. Dominant horses can be aggressive if not out right mean at times to take rank and ownership of territory. They are much more likely to use big gestures and body language and engage in "Dominance games" with other dominant horses. These are the horses you often see playing roughly and wrestling when paired up.They are also likely to get this way with a person that approaches them with this type of energy.
To me being a good Leader to my horses means behaving as much like a lead horse as possible. It means that if I want to be followed I should behave like someone who would be good to follow. Think about that. Are you someone you'd like to follow? Ask yourself this question. Would you happily follow your lead if you were a horse? It means thinking about what you are requesting of your horse and how they might feel about it. It means acknowledging their fears and helping them overcome them in a supportive way not a forceful one. It means thinking about the overall balance of the herd and all involved including yourself. Balance is so important. Yes we the people are included in that. Some people put so much focus on the horses well being that they fore go their own and that is not balanced Leadership either. A Leader is only as good as they are feeling in their core being. That means a happy balanced healthy Leader mirrors the same to their horses. Always think about that when you are getting ready to "Lead". We all have bad days and we are allowed to have them. In fact saying out loud "I'm having a bad day and it's ok" is a very freeing experience. Horses like emotional congruency much more then when we try to be perfect for them or cover our hidden fears, depression, anger or anxiety. We are only kidding ourselves if we think they can't read that in us. So next time you see your horse, think about preparing to be a good Leader and remember this is an ever changing role for us. Each day brings us different opportunities to Lead and Learn how to be better Leaders.