Choice is just an Illusion

“If they didn’t like it they would just…” is the most infuriating excuse for the lack of understanding of how psychology wors. I hear this all the time, “if he didn’t like to jump he wouldn’t”, never mind the person beating him with a stick when he refuses a jump. “If the horse didn’t like being laid down, he’d just get up”, nevermind the person lunging them with a leg tied to their saddle until they fall back down….

We assume that a 1-2,000lb animals recognize their size, strength, and athletic ability to outdo us simple humans and that their compliance must be because they like us or the things we’re asking them to do. We like to think this to justify and overshadow the fact that we’re often using extremely manipulative and coercive methods of controlling them, emotionally, because we can’t physically. Much like the questions “why doesn’t that person leave their abusive relationship?” simply because the fear of leaving is worse than the fear of staying. This is often created through systematic conditioning of the victim to believe they can’t be safe without their abuser and even repeated occurrences of Tonic Immobility can speed up this process of attachment. The evil that you know is safer than the evil that you don’t.

Remember Tonic Immobility is a state the body goes into during fear so extreme the individual feels that death is inevitable. It reduces their suffering at the time of death (like being eatten by a predator) and gives them a potential source of escape if somehow the threat goes away. This occurs in times that Fight and Flight aren’t working. I discuss this in a post a few back with a video of a gazelle who survived an attack from a predator by going into tonic immobility when caught, then escaping when the predator was distracted. When a person lays out a horse, even with only mild force, you know it is TI created through repeated forceful experiences.

A horse is an intelligent, emotional animal, and through systematic training where escape and non-compliance is punished, they learn quickly that leaving isn’t an option – even when it seems an obvious choice. We’ve seen horses tied to objects that are not capable of holding them and we laugh, thinking, if only they knew! The truth is they’ve been conditioned through negative reinforcement and punishment that there is no choice. Even if they think jumping is dangerous, the person on their back is more dangerous, they comply, not because the human did 1 bad thing, but because of the history of conditioning to create that.

Stop justifying force, violence, and harsh training because the horse doesn’t leave. Especially consider this when watching work at liberty, what’s in it for the horse to comply? Are they complying because they feel they have no choice? This isn’t liberty.

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