The Pampered Horse Complex
By Will Clinging
With today’s horse world being highly recreational, there are many horses that don’t have to earn a living. These recreational horses are often very well cared for and sometimes even coddled.
I will not use the term “spoiled” as I think a spoiled horse is one that has become a serious problem for his owner. I will say, though, that some of these pampered horses are well on their way to developing “pampered horse complex.”
Many horses are allowed to behave badly due to the affectionate blindness of their loving owners who think that the poor behaviour is not serious. This is certainly not always the case and I do believe that a horse deserves to be treated with respect and be well cared for. There is a difference, however, between a horse treated with too much affection, too much food and not enough work, and a horse that is handled with fairness.
Pampered horse complex is how I refer to horses of any age that are coddled and allowed to get away with disrespectful behaviour. These horses are often affectionate, seemingly well adjusted and scared of very little. They like their easy life and will tolerate a certain amount of handling or training as long as it suits them. A horse has become a “pampered horse” because he or she has been taught to get away with not being obedient. I am not trying to offend those horse owners who pamper their horses, but it is my experience that a horse with pampered horse complex is more likely to injure someone.
A horse with little or no handling can be more intimidating to handle than a pampered horse. This causes us to be more cautious when we start the training process. A nervous or scared horse tells us when he is concerned about things so we are careful not to get too complacent. A horse that is not used to being handled is often scared and if he reacts to something we do, it is usually in a defensive way. A scared horse is generally dangerous if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A horse with good handling and a disciplined daily routine and training program can also be potentially dangerous, but the diligence of the handler ensures that there are established rules to reduce the risk. A horse with a good understanding of basic manners both on the ground and in the saddle will take much less effort to train and maintain those good habits.
With a horse that suffers from pampered horse complex, we are often not so careful. These horses are not scared of much, due to the amount of handling they have had. Early training progresses very quickly but then reaches a plateau because these horses realize that if the training continues they may have to work for a living. These horses then start to resist and resent the training because they know if they put up a fuss they will be allowed to do what they want. They essentially have a temper tantrum, and if they react to something it is because they are mad. Mad horses are dangerous because they want to get their own way and if you are the reason they can’t have what they want, they can lash out in aggression or frustration.
Once horses have established pampered horse complex all is not lost, but it can be a slow and sometimes difficult process to bring them back to a more manageable, respectful state of mind. Once they have been convinced that life is actually more rewarding for them when they behave, many of them will remain well behaved. This, of course, depends on the handler’s desire and ability to maintain better standards for the horse’s behaviour. There are a few that will, over time, become pampered because they have a greater desire than their handler’s to be in control.
The best way to prevent this is to decide on a set of fundamental rules for both you and your horse in the first place. Establish rules that you will consistently enforce and reinforce if your horse should challenge you. Your rules do not need to be my rules or anyone else’s rules, but make sure that there are some rules. I generally believe that rules were made to be broken but in this case, if the rules are not in place and upheld, it might be you who is broken.