Why Will a Horse Allow You to Ride Him into Battle?
I was having a Twitter conversation with Daniel Berman (@danielcberman) this morning about horses, and I had some thoughts that just wouldn’t fit in 140 characters.
I was talking to Daniel about how smart horses are. They aren’t smart in the same way we are. They are smart in the ways they need to survive. Since horses are prey animals, they must always be aware of their environment. Their survival depends on being able to discern what is dangerous and what is not. If they perceive something to be dangerous, they are hard coded to run. On the other hand, they can’t run at every leaf that rustles in the bushes. As a result, horses are black belts at reading body language.
Daniel then asked an astute question: “Why do horses allow us to ride them into battle?”
My tweet was: “Leadership. Develop a strong relationship with your horse, and he will follow you anywhere. Same w/ people.”
Here’s the part that doesn’t fit in a tweet:
Horses crave leadership. In a wild herd, the lead stallion or mare, or the two working as a team, are always on the look out for danger. This allows the rest of the herd to relax and graze. When you meet a horse for the first time, his biggest question to you is, “Can you keep me safe?” If you can show the horse that you can be an effective leader and keep him safe, he will be happy to let you lead him.
As your relationship grows, and the horse trusts you more and more, the two of you will be able to work together and do things you could not do separately. This includes going into battle.
The same thing works with people. Most people are better followers than leaders. They are happy to let someone tell them what to do and where to go. When a leader can convince his followers that he has a vision and can protect them, they will follow him anywhere.
Horses are great teachers of leadership. If you are not an effective leader, your horse will not follow you. Unlike with people, a horse’s feedback on your leadership skills are unadulterated, immediate, and honest. There is no pretense. You are either a good leader or you are not. The horse will follow you only if you can lead.