Where did our rapport go - the story of an overprotective mother

We've had plenty of rain today, great relief after yet another week of scorching sun. Perfect time to play on-line. With no bugs I could focus and so could both of my horses for today.

First up - Ben. It was day two for Ben and I (our first session was yesterday), but today I didn't even bother to get his bridle, we went "natural" from the very beginning. Yesterday we've finished of in a good, positive place so I've decided not to take him to the round corral. We played in the open today. I got his focus right away - hide your hiney and vuala I had 2 eyes, 2 ears, full concentration. What's interesting he didn't call out to any of the horses during our whole session. We started playing the 7 games. It was going so great that I started thinking about J and how difficult our first sessions had been. I know I had no experience at all when I started with Juliano but something else was missing, something else was different about me. Ben was keeping up with his responsibilities, maintaining gait and direction on a circle. I was standing on a tire, he was going round than he wanted to come in so I took it, rubbed him and sent him of again. He went on a circle and I drifted back to Juliano in my thoughts. What are we missing? Our friendly game is fine, Juliano is very obedient when we ride, all seems to be fine but this spark in Juliano's eyes is missing and he is becoming disinterested in me. He is not asking me questions any more and this gray horse I have going around me now is asking and asking. Then it struck me, I'm not being assertive and provocative enough with Juliano and this is making our rapport go up in flames. Ben is a stallion so I automatically have a different approach to him. When I ask him to back up he's better back up, if I ask him to go onto a circle he'd better... I'm being assertive because I know that if I hesitate and 'maybe' ask him to 'maybe' move away he won't, what's more he will be more than happy to move me. With Juliano I'm different. I'm overprotective and obsessed. Juliano doesn't want to back up at phase 1? Oh, I'm sure he has a good reason for that, I'm not going to up my phases because I'm sure I will offend him. So with Juliano our relationship lately looks like this:

Me: Son, I've made you soup, good soup. Eat it, it's healthy for you. Come on son, eat it while it's hot. Soup, good, hot!
J: Are you crazy, woman! What do you want? Can't you see I'm hanging out with the guys!

There is a great thought in Mastery Manual #10
"A worried leader is not going to win horses repport and respect".
Juliano was very right-brain when I met him, fact. But now I feel me worrying about his feelings is driving him crazy. He needs a cool, confident leader, not an overprotective mum with a bowl of soup following him around the pasture. I didn't know when to quit doing what I was doing. I was calming Juliano down all the time and what he needed was for me to use his LBE energy in a creative way. He is a left-brain extrovert! He needs a challenge!

Ben was getting bored with circling. I invited him in (don't worry, he wasn't going round for ages, my thought process was quick, I'm a LBE, too). Ben desperately wanted to roll in the mud. I drove him away from me and allowed him to roll. When he was done, he got up, put in a small rear and a buck, than started walking directly at me tossing his head. The stallion finally showed his true colors and now I was in trouble! Thank God I found my hidden layers of assertiveness that day. I looked at Ben and wiggled the rope. You'd better... ahh yes, back-up, good boy. I took Ben back to the stables and I didn't feel like leading a stallion any more. He was walking with me, when I stopped he would do the same and wait.

Now it was time for Juliano. I wanted to be the same assertive person with Juliano as I was with Ben few minutes ago. I have a weakness for Juliano and I let a lot of things slide with him. I've decided to ask more from Juliano today and make things happen by being persistent. If things went wrong I would stop and play friendly game. We went to our play field with Magda and our horses and after quick friendly game I asked Juliano to back up. What I got from him was "In a minute". I asked him again but this time I was imagining Ben was standing in front of me. Juliano backed up, stopped and looked at me. His ears were forward and the sparkle in his eyes was back. From that point our session went great. Juliano changed directions with a flying-lead change, he did a canter side-ways and other fancy things. Every time I invited him in he would run back to me with a face saying "What's next, what's next". It was an amazing session with an amazing ending. We walked home at liberty and Juliano got so stuck to me he didn't even think of eating grass or running back to the stables, where supper was just beeing served. I've tested the bond by turning back to the play field. Juliano didn't folow the road home on his own, he turned with me. I was finally worth following.

Today I've learned a life-changing lesson. All that time I was thinking the nicer I'm to my horse the more he would like me. This is a human way of thinking and I followed this path because Juliano had plenty of bad human experiences before and I thought this is the right way to handle him. Horses need more than just being nice to them, they need a good leader. A leader who is fair and knows how to balance the carrot and the sick. We have to adapt to changes we've made in our horses. Juliano needed me to be calm and patient some time ago, now he is ready to go further and I have to match him. I watched Juliano with his pasture mates before we played today. There were 6 horses standing by the fence, Juliano decided to go between the horses and the fence. He moved all 6 horses with just a look on his face, and they didn't kinda move, they would run back when J was approaching them. So how can I be a good leader for a horse that all the other horses answer to? Well, now I know, I have to be more assertive and provocative. It may sound obvious to you but until today I always thought I was putting just enough pressure on Juliano but it turns out I was nagging. I'm glad I had a chance to learn how assertive I should be from Ben, now I can work on it with Juliano. Ben is dominant because he is a stallion, Juliano is dominant because he is Juliano and treating him like a horse lower down the herd hierarchy is insulting him.


  1. Great post, I can see my self in so much of this, really inspiering. Thank you :-)

  2. Thank you Sofie, it's something I've been obsessing about lately.

  3. Really interesting - thanks for sharing!