Safety Or Freedom

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Dean Roles_3 edited

By Dean Roles

I  write these articles knowing that the people reading it will probably have little to no experience with horses. I write these articles because of this assumption – in the hope that I can prevent the cycle of violence that is so harmful to horses and humans, that seems to occur way too often, causing harm to one or both parties. So if you’re new and wondering what you can do to help prevent the cycle of violence I would recommend three things:

Horses are inherently dangerous and individuals such as me derive a living minimizing that danger. Horses are large flight animals that are overwhelmingly stronger than their human counter parts. The size and power of the horse usually results in humans curtailing freedom for safety reasons. I do believe safety should always be a primary concern, but the truth that horses teach is that freedom is at the core of the horses’ being and its removal is the loss of all beauty in the horse. Physically removing freedom will result in loss of impulsion. Without impulsion you basically have a car that will not start. Mental loss of freedom has and will always lead to psychosis in any mammal. Period! In reality, sacrificing freedom will result in the loss of safety; and freedom and will gain you a resentful partner.

Freedom and Safety  (Now we’re talking)

Since safety is a primary concern and it is human nature to focus on safety, we must figure out how to enhance our safety without the loss of freedom. It is the uneducated fearful mind that leads to sacrificing freedom for safety. The way of the horse dictates that humans accept the necessity of the horses’ freedom. A horse must be allowed to express itself without fear. Horses that have freedom of expression while working tend to communicate well. Good communication between a horse and rider leads to confidence in both parties. My horses absolutely believe they can do anything I ask of them. To be honest this takes the pressure off of the horse and puts the importance on what I ask and when I ask it. I am absolutely convinced that true safety can only come from freedom, not vice-versa.

This format will not allow me to explain in detail how to slowly mold a horse into a willing, well mannered, balanced dance partner. But that opening sentence reveals the end goal for the horse and how the method should be applied (slowly). Advancing slowly while training the horse allows resistance and faults to manifest in the horse, which allows the rider to train past such difficulties. Once a human realizes these difficulties are essential to develop the relationship, it is a lot easier to slow down and enjoy the process. Of course, that is just another life truth that horses provide us. Slow down smell the roses, smile and enjoy the ride!


Onyx came into my life in January 2009. In the past 3 years she has battled strangles and founder. In the spring of 2012 I decided this mare needed to have a job and I was desperate to find someone who would work with her without sacrificing my horse’s soul. And so it begins…

On June 9 I brought Dean a horse with soundness issues due to her foundering previously. I brought him a horse that had no desire to please a human, but who would rather intimidate people with her size and power.

Dean saw that Onyx’s issues ran deep and they weren’t all psychological…her physical well being needed to be addressed as well.  He took such care to get my horse physically comfortable in the first three weeks by trimming her feet, giving her massages. Anything he could think that would help, he did. He could have physically pushed my horse, took my money for a month’s worth of training and sent us on our way, but he didn’t!

This man cares about the horses and he cares about the people who own these horses that come through his gates. He has a plethora of knowledge and he loves to share it. He spent hours talking to me and sharing the lessons he has learned in his career…and he does it with passion! He is teaching me how to speak horse and to translate the information my horse gives me and to have a relationship with Onyx.

It’s been a beautiful experience to have Dean train me and teach my horse and I’m excited to say my journey isn’t over.  I’m continuing lessons with Dean and he is also continuing to trim Onyx’s feet to keep her sound.  –  Donna Austin, Clayton, DE

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