Respect – It’s kinda a buzz word in the world of equestrians…
“Respect… is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.” ~Annie Gottlieb
Respect… one of the most commonly misunderstood and misused concepts in equestrian culture. Rarely do I hear the word “respect” used for its true definition when it comes to horses. In the horse world, when we hear people say “respect”, they we usually mean “obedience”. It seems that we are a bit obsessed with the notion that “a horse needs to show us the “respect” we deserve by listening to our every command without question, staying quiet and out of our space no matter how terribly we invade theirs, and handing over control of their bodies even if they don’t want to. We say we want “respect” when in truth we crave submission and control.
Often I see the word “respect” used as a way to justify dominant and even forceful training techniques. It doesn’t sound right to say we need our horse to obey our every command without question simply because we want control or that we want dominion over their bodies and will force a horse into cooperating even if they say no. It’s harder to justify using techniques and “tools” that work off of pressure and pain when our only excuse is: “because I wanted to…”
The idea of “respect” allows us to feel justified in our use of pressure, force, and even pain because most of us agree it’s a “good” thing to be “respected”. It adds a rose-color tint to it all. However, if we aren’t using the word respect for its true definition, it’s becomes more of a band-aid to help us feel better about what we are doing to the horses we love than a legitimate reason to behave in such a way.
Dominance, blind obedience, submission – these are not ideas associated with respect. “Respect means showing regard and appreciation for the worth of someone”; “respect means looking out for the rights and dignity of all beings”.
Respect is not won through force or pain; respect is not an outcome of “showing someone who’s boss”.
It’s a bit funny that in our pursuit for feeling “respected” by the horse, we usually disrespect them at the most fundamental level. If we want real respect from the horses we love, we must first learn to respect them. I believe horses and humans would experience far more harmony in their relationships if we focused on our attention on respecting the horse, her body, mind, and soul.
As for respect from the horses… Respect is earned, and we humans don’t usually do a great job proving we deserve it.
When I think of the teachers I loved, admired, and respected more than anyone else, I think of the individuals who encouraged me to speak up, make mistakes, and even disagree with them if I felt differently. They did not use fear as a “teaching tactic” as others tried – they inspired me to fulfill my potential by building me up, not breaking me down.
These are the teachers I will never forget – these are the teachers I respect with all my heart – these are the teachers I hope to emulate.
My greatest teacher, who I respect more than anyone else, is Annie. I respect her with all my heart, and our relationship is 100x better for it.
I want to give a huge thank you to my favorite photographer!! Daryl of DAG Photography is such an incredible artist, woman, and friend. She has captured the spirit of my horses like no one else, and every time I get a new file with photos from her, it feels like Christmas morning.
If you love gorgeous horse, landscape, dance, wedding, and lifestyle photography that looks like it came out of a magical fairy tale, then you will love her work.
I just got a bunch of new photos from her, and I am, like always, in love. I can’t wait to share! Photos of my horses make me so happy 😉
Daryl I am so grateful for your friendship and your art! You are an inspiration to me 🙂