With so much information available these days through trainers, clinicians, books and the internet, it doesn't surprise me that many, many people have picked up terminology and theories that they banter around with authority.
Knowing these things is not a bad thing. But there is a big difference between knowing something and understanding it. And then there is the application. If working with living animals was easy, we would be able to learn something, understand it and then apply it with every horse we work with and it would turn out like textbook...every single time.
Yeaaa...that doesn't even work when it comes to mechanical projects. Ain't going to work with living animals.
So let's talk about one of the things that pretty much every horse person has had drilled into their head for about the last 20-25 years...
Horses are prey animals, they have a built in Flight Or Fight Response mechanism.
I could be mistaken, but I think Ray Hunt was the first to actually verbalize that particular phrase. But it could be even older than Ray Hunt.
Irregardless, that phrase is only a single piece of information in regards to the whole puzzle that people have to put together to learn to work around and with horses. It only works as an individual piece of information when someone does something really dumb...like walk up behind a horse without warning him and they get kicked for their lack of knowledge or Duh! moment. Can't get pissed at the horse...they are a prey animal and they were simply defending themselves.
Under more ordinary circumbstances...say when you are actually working with a horse...just how relevant is that single phrase in the general scheme of what you are trying to do. Really it's a morsal of information and doesn't take into account the many other factors that may be going on.
For the most part, ordinary horses that have been raised around people and handled regularly have a weak Flight or Fight Response. We(People) have spent a significant amount of time reducing the prey animal survival instinct in our horses. I've got some that I'm pretty darn sure wouldn't survive 24 hours in the wilderness with real predators.
But let's be completely honest with ourselves here...the Flight Or Fight Response can almost always be overcome in ALL horses. If it wasn't, people would have almost no success taking mature, unhandled horses and turning them into respectable, serviceable citizens. Particularly with mustangs or range-run horses, who, of any of the "unhandled" horses out there would be the ones most likely to have a real Flight Or Fight Response.
So my question to people is...Just how much to you acknowledge or contribute actions/reactions to the Flight Or Fight Response when you are working with your horses?
Oh and yes I know...most times it is called the Fight Or Flight Response. But if you really think about it, a horse's first instinct is to get away(flight), for the most part a horse will only fight if they can't...so shouldn't it be called the Flight Or Fight Response?