Updated: Mar 21
Let's start with the definition of spoiled so we are all on the same page. I got this off the web: Spoiled:To impair the value or quality of. To damage irreparably; ruin; To impair the completeness, perfection, or unity of; flaw grievously Spoiling a horse sounds like a pretty bad thing according to the dictionary definition. I certainly don't want to ruin my horse or impair it's awesomeness in any way. I think it's very unclear as far as what it would take to truly ruin a horse or if that is even possible to do. Of course a horse can be harmed or seriously injured if one is careless, inconsiderate, or uneducated but for the purposes of this discussion let's stick with the run-of-the-mill concept of the "spoiled" horse. For sure I believe, no I KNOW, that treating a horse like a thoughtless, unfeeling, insensitive robot will spoil him. I work with horses who had been treated in ruinous way for most of their lives. It is very difficult to convince them that not all human interactions are bad once they have experienced otherwise. Anything that causes chronic distress, fear, and/or physical damage or discomfort will certainly impair the greatness and diminish the welfare and quality of life of any horse.
Feeding a horse by hand, asking it nicely to do something, giving it a scratch, talking sweetly to it (which I do on a regular basis thank you very much), and using rewards to motivate desirable behavior is what many people believe leads to a "spoiled" horse. They may consider it poor horsemanship. I was one of those people. I thought using anything other than a firm hand was ridiculous, foolish, and highly problematic.
Not one horse I've treated with kindness, understanding, respect, and trained with positive reinforcement has become spoiled. In fact they have become happier, healthier, smarter, and calmer. There s also plenty of scientific evidence that rewarding a horse with something they like (food, scratches, grazing time, etc.) helps them learn faster, retain information better, become more resilient, and confident even during stressful situations.
I am not advocating for letting horses attacking us, being pushy, or acting out in any way that might be detrimental or unsafe for us or them. We all needs rules to live by and a horse that is unpredictable can be very dangerous. Those issues can be resolved skillfully and compassionately too.
It's important that we are thoughtful about using critical terms like "spoiled" when we speak to horse owners. Never feel badly about the way you handle your horse. It's your choice. It's your horse. If everything is working for you and your horse, then everything is okay. Please don't let anyone tell you what you are doing is wrong. If you are struggling with your horse, or if you think you could be doing something that would improve his or her life, and help you have a more successful relationship, then by all means seek the information that will support those positive changes.
Be safe. Keep your horse safe Respect your horse's true nature. Preserve your horse's emotional stability and physical comfort and enjoy your "spoiled" horse. 😊