I totally agree with you that a two-way communication should be the basis of all horse handling. I just wonder how do you teach or train something, if you do not lead into a certain direction?
Well, to be quite honest, often when I start having a session with a horse I do not know in advance what I will be 'training'. With a 'yes' horse we pick up where the horse starts and take it from there. With a 'no' horse we simply first have to let the horse say 'no' as much as he wishes until he no longer feels the need and asks to do something, anything, and then we pick it up from there.
I guess it's similar over here. When you wrote about leadership being about who is setting the goals, Volker, I was wondering how the more specific goals in our interaction, like what will happen on a given day, are being set. And I think my answer is that in most situations they aren't set in advance at all, it just happens during our interaction, depending on my horses' and my own or the children's preferences, moods or needs.
On a usual day when I come to the pasture I do not know which horse(s) I am going to interact with and what we are going to do. Sometimes I have some bias (e.g. "I haven't been for a walk with Pia for a long time, so that would be good option"), and rather seldom a specific goal (e.g. "I want to work on turning on a circle with Summy"), although that also happens sometimes. But even when those ideas are specific, these aren't fixed goals or plans but really just ideas for what I'd prefer to do. Whether we finally end up doing this depends on how the horses act when I come or how they react when I suggest it.
Sometimes I am the one who initiates an activity. This could be that after having done my work I place myself somewhere in the pasture and say "I am free now, so if someone wants to train, he can come". Sometimes I suggest a certain exercise by giving a body language cue that the horse can pick up and react to it, but I think just as much I am picking up what they are doing and base my further actions on that. Sometimes I want to go for a walk and then I go get the lunge line and place myself close to the gate with it. The horse I am taking with me usually is the one who shows most interest. That is, I mostly take the one who is fastest in coming towards me or hardest to get rid of again. But I almost never know in advance which horse I am going to end up with, unless I feel that one has been neglected way too long.
When we have left the pasture, I often have an idea where we could go, and sometimes not. It rarely happens that I really know it in advance or have a very specific preference, often it's just an idea that can be changed easily (for example by the horse looking or turning into the other direction at a crossroads).
All plans or goals can be changed, either by me or by the horse, when it becomes necessary: no matter if my horse wants to walk a certain path, when I have a clear time limit and the horse turns into a direction that leads away from home, we don't go there but turn towards home (i.e. we go with my idea). No matter if I want to go somewhere specific, if the horse objects and can't be persuaded easily but strongly prefers another direction, we usually go there (i.e. we go with the horse's idea), unless I have a good reason why this is not possible.
None of the things I have said before are absolute truths or cover all situations, and sometimes we make exceptions to all the above. Sometimes I just impose my will on the horses and sometimes they impose their will on me very clearly, like for example Titum who some weeks ago gave me a clear warning when I was not listening to him. He had been asking if we could leave a certain place now and I had pretended not to hear him. As a consequence he suddenly pulled so hard that I knew that I would have no chance to hold him if he went on. It was just a warning and he stopped after about three seconds, but by then I had gotten his message and we went on.
Of course I told myself that if I really wanted, I could still get my will and make him stay by turning the cordeo-like lunge line into a halter, but then I think that's what all members in a relationship feel, unless it's a very unhealthy one: that even when they go with what they are being told to do, it's still their choice and if they really wanted to object or get out of it, they could.
But I am skipping topics again, moving from goal-setting to making the other one do things, which I know was not your point when you were talking about leadership. What I actually wanted to say in this post is just that even in the goal setting department I can't define who is doing that in most of my interaction with my horses. More often it just seems to happen as a consequence of our spontaneous interactions. And again it seems hard to me to place a leader anywhere within this process.
First of all, thanks Josepha for discussing this with me! Helps me greatly to sort my thoughts. And Romy, if you think we should take this discussion elsewhere, please just say so.
Not at all. I placed a link to this section of Titum's diary into the 'Links to threads' topic under 'Leadership', so everyone can find it later, even when it's hidden in a diary.
And this topic seems an important one for me in relation to Titum, especially the "because I said so" aspect Sue brought up, so feel free to discuss as much as you want. I just can't take part in the discussion as much as I wish right now, because my time schedule is very tight.