Horses are big, potentially deadly, animals who have no respect for those below them in the pecking order. If you intend to be handling and working with horses, you have to make sure you are above them in the pecking order otherwise it can put everyone involved at risk.
Unfortunately, with the rise in popularity of ‘natural horsemanship’ there seems to be a growing number of horse owners who seem to see discipline and abuse as the same thing. This has led to many of these horse owners being walked all over by their horses who have no respect for them. I remember being at one yard in particular where one lady’s horses were so rude to her it was disgusting! Not only is this embarrassing, but it’s also extremely dangerous!
Telling a horse off or correcting a negative behaviour is not abuse and it can keep both you and your horse safe.
For example, if a horse bit a horse higher up the pecking order, what do you think would happen? That more dominant horse would bite them back! So if you have a nippy horse, I would recommend a quick slap in return. However, you have to react straight away, otherwise the horse won’t associate the slap with being punishment for the bite. I would also avoid slapping the head/face as this can lead to head shyness and I would only ever use a hand.
Another example could be a bolshy, rude horse. Another horse would pull a face or chase a horse away out of their space. With bolshy horses, I like to always handle them with a schooling whip. If they try and barge out the stable when you enter, I tap their chest with the schooling whip lightly and telling them to back up until they back up. If they don’t back up I apply a little more force until they move. Horses quickly learn to move out of the way by themselves or as soon as they are asked to.
Doing these things you are not harming the horse at all. In fact, what you are doing to them will be kinder than what horses often do to each other in the field! So you are certainly not abusing your horse. Yes there will always be someone who takes things too far, but that doesn’t mean all forms of discipline are abuse!
And finally, natural horsemanship is generally believed to mean; talking to your horse in a language he understands to build your relationship based on mutual respect. Refusing to tell your horse off means that you will never have a relationship based on respect and you are not talking his language.