Raising Babies From The Horses Mouth

As a baby horse owner, I feel like there is a good deal of pressure to do the right thing for her. Mostly from myself, but also from others around me. What I have learned through this process is that I get the best results when I do what feels right to me, rather than doing what is traditional (no one saw that coming, right?).

What I have found is that there are styles of raising baby horses, very similar to those of raising humans. From my experience with HDFS classes, I know that the 4 parenting styles are: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and neglectful. I have easily seen all of those with horses and have my own opinions of what’s best.

I truly believe that authoritative is the best way to raise babies. I love the idea of “guidelines, enabling, flexible, assertive, and supportive.” If I could put into words everything I want to be for Estella, authoritative is it. When I think about authoritarian, I think of the idea of “the human is the boss.” You do what I want when I say it, no questions asked. I am sad to say I see this with a majority of young horses. There is no respect for their maturity level or their needs. By the time they are 2 or 3, they must behave like adults! I also see these horses end up broken down and broken-spirited. Maybe that’s what the human is looking for, but that definitely is no life for a horse. Permissive sounds like a bunch of carrots and a horse that doesn’t respect or trust you as a leader. I would venture to say people believe I am more permissive with Estella, but I would also bet their idea of authoritarian isn’t the same as mine.

I keep a very realistic perspective with Estella. For instance, she hates to stand still. Not that she always wants to run and be wild, but she likes to wander around, investigate, and always be doing something. To me, that’s great! I love her curiosity and her desire to be involved. I don’t ever want to shut those qualities down, so I compromise. I want to be flexible and supportive, so I don’t ever force her to stand for long periods of time. For instance when she gets her feet done, we do one foot, walk a circle, do another foot, walk again, and so on. I don’t groom her in cross ties so that if she needs to move we can and I saddle her up after she has had the chance to move around for a while. She is old enough to stand still for a short period of time, but I don’t push it.

Am I being too permissive? Maybe. But, when I think about the goal with my horse, it is to create a partnership. I want a horse that is responsive, but exuberant (the horse wants to be doing what I want so he does it; he doesn’t do it because of fear or force). If I constantly shut her ideas down, made her stand, and didn’t give any thought to her needs, I might have a horse that is behaved but because it has to be not because it wants to be. In time we will work up to standing still for an entire trim, but for now there is no reason why she can’t take a quick break.

The beauty of being on my own timeline is that I am never in a rush. If it takes us a years before she is willing to stand still the entire time she is groomed, so be it! If I push riding her back a day because today she wants to gallop around and buck and be sassy, so be it! She’s young, she’s confident, and she has plenty of her own ideas. As long as she follows the guidelines of being respectful and safe, I am happy to let her be her young, sassy, self.

What are your thoughts on raising babies? Should they be allowed to be babies, or by age 3 should they be a normal part of a fully, functioning society?

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