Boundaries and How to Use Them

Hello again. Today, I'd like to continue talking with you about the natural instincts of horses and how you can use them to improve your relationship with your horse. A foal is born polite and from his herd instincts, knows how to stay safe, moving away from anything that is coming toward him and following anything that is leaving him. As he matures and starts to pay attention to the herd, he gets curious and begins to interact. He makes friends through his interactions, movements and self-expressions. As he matures he loses his natural politeness and either is able to direct his friends or be directed. The more he can communicate politely the more horses will respond positively to his communications.

As time passes, the foal generally will test other horses and experiment with rude behavior to see if he can get away with it, just like children do. The herd will set him straight by using a bigger or more aggressive physical display. When he returns to being polite after receiving an attitude adjustment, he returns each time a little wiser and more interested in developing a relationship rather than wanting to have his way with other horses. He learns the code of herd behavior. He must consider the other horses' individual feelings and personal space.

Whether the horse is in the wild or domestic, horses need these interactions for personal well-being and for brain development. A horse's brain needs challenges and nurturing throughout the day to keep his spirit alive. Horses need the herd interactions provided by us through the Waterhole Rituals in the domestic setting that we provide on a daily basis to develop a well-adjusted personality and good character while in our care. With a good character, life is always more enjoyable.

Looking at the stages of learning a foal experiences within a natural herd, the first stage of social development begins with his mother. He learns two lessons from this mother so he is armed with some information that will serve him when he begins to find his place in the herd. His mother teaches him when he can nurse and when he should not. She also teaches him that it is his job to keep up with her. These lessons are easy to learn because of the instincts he is born with. His mother increases these instincts throughout their relationship. As the foal matures, he starts to develop an ego and begins to become brave and try new things. He will become rude with his mother first and his mother will allow the rude behavior until he is so rude that his behavior begins to turn anti social.

The reason for this is so the he can protect himself in herd interactions by her letting him develop his moxie. This is when his mother, if she is a good one, will not take her foal's abuse and will start educating him on his behavior toward her. She will teach him the boundaries he needs to respect through body language at first. If that does not work, a good squeal followed by a possible kick may be required to produce the desired change in the foal’s behavior. There is no clear rule on where the boundaries lie for the foal and this causes him to think before he acts to figure out what he can’t do or get away with. These boundaries are flexible for a reason.

He learns to check in at every horse interaction to see what the new boundaries are. This is what causes polite behavior and makes a foal more cautious. This also protects him from predators. Sometimes there are no boundaries and the foal learns that too. Sometimes the boundaries are created because of his anti social behavior so the personal boundaries of another horse will be large, to teach him a lesson. Sometimes these large boundaries show up from another horse having nothing to do with his behavior and he learns that lesson too.

The reason for this is the foal learns that sometimes no matter how sweet he is being, the boundaries may be great and have nothing to do with him. This is a very important lesson for the foal. This way the foal does not learn how to manipulate another horse to do something it does not want to do just because the foal is being sweet and adoring. This I see happening with many humans who have a deep bond with their horses and it should be addressed for the well-being of both the horse and the human. It is very important that the foal can’t work the system to the disadvantage of another horse or human. Horses learn that the bond must always be a two-way deal, in the moment. Not what is expected, but what is in the moment is all that you have.

No guarantees.

Think about what I have shared with you. It should shed some light on how to choose your boundaries with your horse and may explain his behavior toward you when he becomes optimistic and willing, when he swings the other way and when he starts to listen and wants to follow your lead over his own. It might come from more leniency or less. It is so important to understand how to use boundary adjustments both in subtle and bigger ways to develop a dancing partnership where the conditional bond is replaced by a more consistent connection in friendship, respect, and trust. You just cannot avoid the dance. From sharing a deep heart connection, between the nurturing and the shaping of character and well-being, comes the magic.