• Elaine Sanders

Break this Horsemanship "Rule"

I have frequently heard in the horse world, by reputable trainers, authors, horsemen and horsewomen…

Do not anthropomorphize.

There is no place for anthropomorphism in horsemanship.

Anthropomorphic beliefs will get you nowhere.

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a horse.

I’ve tried to crunch my way through this but I don’t get it. I just don’t see anything wrong with it. I use it with my own horses with great success and results. It has never caused me or my horses any harm.

What’s the harm in seeing that horses have emotions like we do? I’ve seen them scared, uncomfortable, and frustrated. I’ve seen them content, exuberant, and calm. Just like us, their emotions influence their physiology, their mental and physical performance, and their health. Just like us, they prefer positive emotions and harmony over negative emotions and disharmony.

What’s the harm in seeing that horses form relationships like we do? What’s the harm in seeing that the same things that influence our decisions to be in a relationship with someone would also influence a horse’s decisions to be in a relationship with us?

What’s wrong with treating my horses with the same respect, honour, love, and care that I would treat anyone else? What’s wrong with exercising my kindness and firmness with a horse in the same way that I do with people?

What’s wrong with providing leadership for my horses the same way that I would want leadership for myself: a recognition of my needs, my unique expression, my desire for freedom, choice, and autonomy?

What’s wrong with giving my horse a say in his life, knowing that he’ll love me for it and want to follow me? What’s wrong with surprising and delighting him with gifts of his favourite snack? What’s wrong with telling him enough is enough when he needs to hear it?

What’s wrong with refusing to baby him or coddle him? What’s wrong with challenging him to be the best version of himself, to push him to be more fit, more healthy, more resilient, more calm, more composed, more patient?

What’s wrong with wanting to form a partnership with a horse, a close friendship, a connection? What’s wrong with wanting to celebrate that connection by doing great things together?

What if we treated all people like this?

Maybe we should anthropomorphize people.

Here’s to You and Your Horse,


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