Today someone was telling me about a situation she had recently with her horse, and asked me what I would've done in the scenario. She was out on a hack, and got to a certain point where the horse decided he wanted to turn back home - and after some struggling, they went back home. The next time they rode the same route, the horse stopped at the same point, but this time he threatened to buck if they didn't turn back. I automatically said that, if its not pain related, its dominance related. This got me thinking about leadership on a deeper level. It seems to me that a great leader will never bring the horse (or human) into a win/loose situation.
I think that a horse will fight whatever the human puts in the way of resistance. He will match and persist with the same amount of force that I use. Another thing is that, somewhere along the line, the horse will test the leadership and if that leadership* doesn't meet the mark, he will (rightly) challenge it. My job is to establish leadership in the small things (interactions), and when the horse does test my leadership, either rise up to the mark, or, if I am not a good enough leader on that day, or in that scenario, at least have the humility to back down, and re-establish leadership, respect, and TRUST (amazing how these things are connected) in the last place that I had it.
If the horse challenges the leadership in the first place, its because he's had reason to question it somewhere along the line. Therefore, when the horse challenges my leadership, its definitely NOT the time to give the horse something to fight (a win/loose scenario). Things are only as big as we make them. The horse will mirror my attitude.
Some horses - often labelled 'fierce' 'dominant' or 'stubborn' - have a greater sense of leadership and respect; these horses need to be treated with greater dignity, that is all. It is also true that 1 human/handler represents the whole of the human species, so if that human shows a lack of true leadership, respectful and trustworthy, the rest of us will pay - as that horse will view all humans as untrustworthy leaders (predators!) until someone shows him otherwise. And remember, the horse is right to be suspicious and mistrustful! His safety is at stake!
*often leadership has nothing to do with dominating, but is rather about the times that we've retreated, at the correct time. The times that we *cough* admit that the horse is right.