While cooperation is what you want from a horse, submission is not. A horse that submits is a very unhappy horse and doesn’t make for smooth riding. Riders need to avoid a horse going into submission because it poses a significant threat to the rider and anyone else who is around. It’s also incredibly dangerous and unpleasant for the horse, who could end up fainting mid-ride.
Identifying the problem is the first step to overcoming it. You need to be able to read the body language of your horse well and be able to pick up on the subtle differences between cooperation, which is healthy, and submission, which is not. Read on to find out what submission in horses is and the signs of submission in horses.
What is Submission in Horses?
Horse riders want their horse to cooperate and respond willingly to commands. When this is the case, horses are happy being ridden and get great enjoyment from going for a ride with you. However, submission is a very different sort of compliance. This is when a horse responds to commands out of fear. They will start to disassociate and obey only as an evolutionary survival instinct. A horse in submission is in a state of terror and can pose a threat to humans.
Here are the signs of submission in horses.
Complying Despite Appearing Uncomfortable
When a horse complies, they should do so willingly. If their body language suggests they are afraid and uncomfortable, then their compliance is likely a sign of submission. They’ll move in a jerky way, lacking any fluidity. Inside, the horse is in fear, even though they’re doing what they’re told.
Not Responding to Further Commands
When in a state of submission, a horse can become single-minded on the task at hand. Once they respond to a command, they may just continue doing it, even if you tell them to stop or do something else. This suggests that your horse has disassociated from reality and gone into survival mode. This is incredibly unpleasant for the horse and you should take time to calm them down.
Relaxed Body Muscles
When animals submit, they relax all their muscles. They realize that they have no option for fight or flight and their only hope of survival to completely submit to the will of their predator or, in this case, their rider. When a horse goes into submission, you’ll notice their whole body relaxing. Their eyes may start to close or roll up into their head. The only thing that won’t be relaxed is the jaw. A tense jaw with a relaxed body is a clear sign of submission.
Loss of Balance
Your horse may agree to go for a run but it won’t be a smooth affair. With relaxed muscles, their knees could buckle underneath them. The horse may even begin to fall asleep and start to topple over. These jerky, clunky movements aren’t safe for you or for the horse. You should slow the horse down and try to get them to lie down in a safe environment. A horse in submission is often on the cusp of fainting so clearly, they shouldn’t be engaged in any heavy exercise.
Acting Out Before and After Complying
A cooperative horse will be consistently cooperative. If they are resisting, fighting back, or trying to run away beforehand and then all of a sudden doing what they’re told, it may be because they’ve gone into submission. Similarly, once they’ve finished a particular command. they may suddenly try to run far away from you. If this happens, then they obviously weren’t happy following your command.
Now you know the signs of submission in horses, you can act to prevent danger. You need to take time to regain the trust of your horse and ensure they comply with joy and excitement. Horses love to be ridden but don’t confuse submission for cooperation. They’re very different things and knowing the distinction is essential. Over time, you’ll learn the triggers that lead to submission in your horse. This will help you to avoid them falling into this disassociative state which can be potentially dangerous. As always, build up trust with your horse to ensure they stay happy and fulfilled.