That’s how we would describe the herd here at Free Rein Australia!
They live as a herd – constantly moving and grazing. They have to travel for food and water. The land is hilly, dotted with trees and a small forest. They have friend preferences, family connections, and the occasional disagreement.
They are wild in the sense that they still behave in ways similar to their wild ancestors. They function as a cohesive herd – where everyone has a role and position within the herd. They are always sensing for danger in their environment – even when many of them are laying down – some are still standing guard. They will always choose safety of the herd over food, comfort or even water.
The horses at Free Rein Australia are not ridden and do not participate in any equine sport or discipline. They have rarely experienced humans in a dominant role. As much as possible, they are given free choice to engage with humans – or not!
We believe horses that work in learning and therapy programs can be more true to their nature when they are not ridden. Horses that are ridden usually have some, if not all of their free will taken away. Since a mammal’s brain learns from the past, certain behaviours are formed that promote survival and well being, and this includes thier conditioning. Through whatever training modality – whether it is pressure / release, punishment or reward, horses become conditioned to behave a certain way. Like us, our conditioned patterns are stored in the sub cortical region of the brain and become automatic responses to our environment. For most humans, it take a great deal of presence and mindfulness to intercept and change our conditioned responses. Horses have way less neocortical capacity to do this.
Consequently, horses will automatically respond to clients in a way that includes their conditioning – in other words, they may respond automatically rather than authentically.
Equine learning and therapy can be hard work for horses
Due to their high sensitivity, horses naturally fall into resonance with each other and the environment – which includes humans. As most humans have a tendency to hold onto heavy emotions, it can be onerous on horses to resonate at this level. They need plenty of rest and restorative time to maintain their physical and emotional health. This is another reason why our horses are not ridden.