Okay, so you all know that I live and work with horses everyday. While I don’t have any children of my own, I played a big role in raising my nephew, Liam. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between my horses and Liam when he was a toddler. I’ve come to the conclusion, there are some major similarities!
1. Like a child first asserting his independence and saying NO, most horses, even with training, will still test boundaries, at least mildly, and some horses with dominant personalities will openly challenge a weak or inexperienced handler. For example, a horse may ignore its training and attempt to nip, bite, kick, refuse to be led, or try other ways to challenge human dominance.
2. Have you ever witnessed a young child when bored or tired, act out in a negative way? Horses can show the same behaviours. Stall kicking, stall walking, pawing, or biting over the stall door are some of the behaviours caused by boredom from being kept in a stall. To decrease the frequency of this behaviour, you might try adding another mealtime, placing toys in the stall or try providing more turn out time.
3. Ever try to motivate a young child with a reward? Exhibit a certain behaviour or even just help tidy up and you get a treat? Horses react the same way. The more they want the reward, the harder they will work for it. Keep in mind that too much of a good thing or a reward at the wrong time can have a lesser impact on performance. Try to keep treats and rewards special or interesting to the horse.
4. Children will compete for attention. Just watch what happens when mommy is playing with another girl or boy. Horses will react in the same way if an owner or handler is paying attention to another horse. They will get agitated, especially if the horse in question is perceived as a lesser rank in the herd.
5. Finally, the best one of all! All of us love to PLAY!
Please feel free to post comments and add to this list with your own observations.