When it comes to discussing horse behavior, respect is a bad word.

It’s at the top of the list of words floating around the horse industry that can be misleading.

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We use it because there’s not a better one-word alternative in our human language.

Can A Horse Actually Be Disrespectful?

A horse doesn’t operate in terms of respect and disrespect in the same way people do.

This is another one of those areas where we must separate human/horse brain function and behavior.

I’ve never seen a horse that knew what he should do, was sure about what he should do, and felt good about what he should do, and did not do it willingly.

A horse naturally HAS respect or regard for a human.

What Happens?

But over time, without the correct approach, that regard or ‘respect’ can be lost.

Maybe the human is too hard, demanding, and unfair.

Or maybe the human is afraid to firm up when needed to clearly communicate an idea.

Maybe the horse has never been taught that he needs to keep his mind on what the human is asking or fixing to ask.

Then the horse will begin to disregard and ignore the human and start trying to find his own way.

He begins to randomly try this or that in his search for the correct answer.

And that’s when the horse is labeled as being ‘disrespectful’.

But in most cases, he just doesn’t know anything better to do.

If he did, he would do that instead.

Understanding VS Respect

It’s not a respect issue.

It’s an understanding issue.

For example, when a horse doesn’t ‘respect’ your personal space, it’s not that he is purposely being ‘disrespectful’.

It’s because he’s never been adequately taught to be in the habit of doing that.

For help with teaching a horse to develop this habit, visit the Groundwork For Horses article.

When a horse doesn’t ‘respect’ your leg or a bit, it’s not that he’s decided he wants to get the best of you.

It’s because he’s never been adequately taught what leg and bit pressure mean.

A horse is naturally willing to please a human, get along, and feel good about things.

They’re the most open to suggestion animals in the world.

But we have to speak their language and work with their self preservation instincts instead of against them.

So let’s think about ‘respect’ like this….

Instead of jumping to the conclusion that a horse is being ‘disrespectful’, let’s realize that the horse just doesn’t know about this deal yet.

And then work to become the type of person that can give him a reason to trust our guidance and show him a better way.

Listen to my podcast on this subject: Respect Is A Bad Word Podcast

Carson James
Carson James

Carson James' background is in Vaquero Horsemanship, and for the majority of his career, he worked on cattle ranches where he rode horses all day, every day. His knowledge comes from real life experience using traditional Buckaroo horsemanship to train horses and fix problems. He is now taking all of this knowledge and experience and sharing it with horse owners through his blog, his Insider list, and his Buckaroo Crew. He has a unique way of breaking things down where they're easy to understand, both for the horse and the human.