It Ain't Anthropomorphism...But It's Close
Lots of times I hear people talk about their horses as if they have human feelings and characteristics (anthropomorphism). They usually follow it up with an explanation of how they know horses and humans are different. And they are. Yet, what is it about the horse that makes humans often feel a deep, personal connection with them? When we feel as if we are communing with a being who truly understands us with no judgment?
While I was working with a rider and he said,"I want my horses to forgive me when I make a mistake, but I know they don't think like we do." I believe most people feel this way, but there is usually some misunderstanding of what it is.
A horse doesn't know what forgiveness is, but he knows when we mess up and make a mistake. He's OK with that! He doesn't care if we mess up. He does care if we constantly mess up and make him pay a price for our mistakes. For example: We ask our horse to move and he does, but he goes faster than the rider wants so then the rider pulls on the horse to slow him down or stop him. Did the rider pause to see if maybe he did too much when he asked the horse to move out? If the answer is yes, then the horse paid a price (having his mouth pulled on) for the rider's mistake. Things like this that continually happen to the horse will cause him to become dull or rebel and act out and then be labeled a "problem" horse.
It's OK to make mistakes. You're going to, and so am I. When we do we should admit it, apologize to the horse, start over, and promise to try and not make him pay for our mistake. He only cares that we try to take the responsibility for what we should without making him use calories and oxygen for it. That's something I see happen a lot of times when horses are being worked in a round pen. If we can avoid this, our horses will trust us enough to "forgive" the mistakes we make.