Monday, September 7, 2015

Confinement and Containment

I heard an interesting comment from a fellow trainer the other day and the subject just keeps coming up in various forms so I thought I’d start to ponder it with you today.   The comment was:  “I don’t believe in confinement”.
Well, hmm…… that’s an interesting comment because at its most basic: all training is based on confinement.  The very idea of collection is confinement between the hands and legs of the rider.  Asking a horse to load in a trailer, go into a wash rack or even to be stalled is asking a horse to accept confinement.

The process of accepting confinement starts when most horses are babies and we halter them for the very first time and when we first turn them out in fenced areas.  And certainly no horse is born knowing how to be tied, bridled or saddled, that all has to be taught. Confinement allows a horse to live with and alongside humans and not only be safe for people to be around, but to keep from getting hurt by us and our things as well.

For a horseman, confinement and containment are interrelated.  A horse that accepts the confinement of being a domesticated animal has taken a big step towards accepting the containment that is “collection”.  Collection is really containment that puts a horse in balance by asking for momentum while using hands to keep that momentum from just going forward.  So, the horse that “collects up” is containing or “compressing” his body.

Another aspect of all this is the mental component of containment.  Horses must accept all these changes in their life, which is quite unnatural in their natural state.  But, in doing so, it allows us to care for them and most horses now live without hunger or thirst, fear from predators or suffering from the extremes of weather.  It will never cease to amaze me how the horses I’ve turned out during the day in their pastures cry to be let back in as the day goes on.  They know their stall means food, water, blankets and generally: a safe place to spend their night.
I guess what I’m really saying is that there is a trade-off between horses and humans, a bargain if you will.  We use horses for work and pleasure and by doing so; horses get a different level of care and attention than they would in the wild.  The trade cannot happen though, without some confinement.

I’ll talk more about this in a future blog.  Talk to you next week, JD