I have horses. I'm also in a long-term relationship with a man (yes, a real, live one that doesn't require double-a batteries, which I thoroughly consider to be a win!). While most people find the latter fact miraculous in itself, I know deep down its really because I'm completely awesome. And because Pat's hopefully too lazy to find someone better. I'm kind of banking on that fact, really.
Anyway, for some reason, people seem to think I've got it all together, and they come to me with their relationship problems. I don't mind this, in fact I kind of enjoy having free-counseling/advice sessions....somehow they make me feel like my relationship is a whole lot better than most others. Although, as I write this, he's sitting next to me on the couch annoying the hell out of me, but I'm still better off than most of my friends, so I still win. Right?
In my horse experience, I've realized that the way I treat horses and the way I treat men share a lot of common theories and training methods. What doesn't work with one probably won't work with the other, and when all else fails, be prepared to take another angle to achieve your goals, or send them on their way. The best part about horses and men is the fact that there's ALWAYS someone else around the corner that will happily take your leftovers when you've had enough of their crap. Sometimes you'll even get paid for them. The horses, too!
Men are fairly simple creatures, much like breeding stallions. It takes three basic requirements to successfully maintain a healthy, happy stallion. Feed them properly, give them time to go out and play on their own, and an opportunity to get off as frequently as possible. That's all it takes to make them pretty easy to get along with. I think the majority of relationship problems stem from women neglecting these three basic necessities of man-management. It's not the men's fault...it's their handlers'.
Many problems arise when women want to keep these men locked up in a stall 23-hours a day, and then want to wonder why they can only come out and behave themselves in public with a stud chain around their noses. They become hormone-charged raging dickheads ready to rape the first thing that spreads its' legs in front of them. Then they get in trouble for it, and that's not fair. Men are genetically programed to stick their manjunk in anything that will allow it. You wouldn't need the chain/discipline if they were allowed to vent their frustrations properly in adequate turnout opportunities. Send them to the garage to work on something, ship them off to the bar with an Accountabili-Buddy (a close friend that you've pulled aside and threatened to castrate if they let your man do something stupid that night), let men be men. Just make it more lucrative for them if they behave themselves!
The second problem I've seen with relationships is that women shop for the wrong kind of man to suit their needs. Form fits function. You don't go out and buy a Tennesee Walker with plans to show the AAA hunters. Consequently, if you met this great guy at a dive bar in the middle of nowhere, you paid the bar tab because he "forgot his wallet", and you always have to drive because he's still going to court to get his driver's license back (but it'll be real soon!), don't expect him to take you to the opera and all of the five-star restaurants in town! You can put a Walker in the finest hunt tack money can buy, but at the end of the day, it's still going to gait its way around the ring. Now, with that being said, there's absolutely nothing wrong with Walkers! Some people love them and wouldn't ride anything else. I've met quite a few Walkers that I've liked just fine! Would I buy one for myself? Probably not, because they just aren't my particular cup of tea. Just like some women WANT to have a man that they have to raise like their own child. Sure, they can be nice guys, but I have no desire whatsoever to deal with one on a regular basis.
And then we have the asshole-lovers. I've been there. I used to want a horse that would "challenge" my skills as a handler/trainer. And I was convinced that a guy that "challenged" me would force me to be a better girlfriend in the end. Let me tell ya, there's NO shortage of people that will give you their asshole horse. Same with men. It is NOT a "deal"! If the guy has JUST gotten out of his third marriage or relationship (because of COURSE it was "that bitch's" fault), there's a reason no one else wanted to keep him. You're taking on someone else's problem, be prepared for it. Fix it, or shut up. Nothing irritates me more than the girl who wants to bitch about how badly her horse/man treats her, yet takes NO steps to correct the behavior. He bites? Clobber him. He hits you? Shoot him. He calls you names? Have his ass beat in the parking lot of his work. Seriously, I've got guy-friends that'll take care of it, cheap. If you can't get through to him OR the horse, and other options haven't made any progress, be prepared to put a bullet in his head. There's NO reason to send your problem-situation on to the next owner.
Ground manners are also an often-overlooked aspect of horse ownership and man-management. It took about two days of work before my colt learned not to walk in front of me...and it took about 20 minutes of wandering through Meijer before my man learned the same. Constantly changing direction in a store causes them to pay attention, to watch where you're going, and to learn quickly that if they hit you with the shopping cart, there'll be hell to pay. I'll randomly speed up and dive down an aisle, throw in a few u-turns, hell, I'll even stop and back up just to make sure he's on top of it. Furthermore, if your horse has trouble standing still, he should stand tied for extended periods of time to learn patience. Personally, I'm a huge fan of the time-out tree. Likewise, if your man has problems going to the mall, take as much time as you need to pick out another white t-shirt. He will learn patience.
There's no "forcing" a horse, or a man. They're bigger than we are, and when they've finally had enough of your nagging, bitching & nit-picking, they retaliate. It's usually not pretty. There's an easy way to avoid all of this, let them think your goals were their idea to begin with. This takes a certain amount of skill, and usually a lot of reward when they offer the right response. Horses and men are both pressure-animals. Need to get them out of the way? A finger in their flank and a click or two should do it. But remember, you won't teach a horse to pivot with the first poke, and you won't move a man from the fridge in the first try either. As soon as you get that first small step away from your pressure, reward! A pat on the neck, a quick fondling of the man-junk through the pants, maybe a quick peek down your shirt....its all the same. Simple rewards that don't cost anything from you, but mean the world to them. It won't take long and you'll have them yielding every way you ask them to if they think there'll be an enjoyable experience in it for them. Soon, you'll have the overachieving ones doing showmanship patterns for you all over the kitchen floor!
I've always said that good stallions make great geldings. With that being said, if your man seems to have a problem with wanting to mount everything in sight, and you find this particularly offensive (as most of us do), either geld him, or sell him. Hormones are hormones. Sometimes training just can't fix instinct. He may be awfully darn talented "under saddle", but chances are that the next woman will probably agree. You can fix the problem, get rid of the problem, or you can be prepared for an unplanned foal out of a different mare showing up at your doorstep asking for child support.
I sincerely hope that my observations and words of advice help those in need. If I help just one man or horse in this complicated world, I'll have met my goal in writing this. For those of you with additional questions, please don't hesitate to ask and I'll do my best to help. Just remember: if it takes you six shots of Cuervo before you're willing to get on top of him, he's probably not the right one for you!