Other Hand Exercises (OH x’s) – Straightness Training

We are all asymmetric, and so are our horses. To help us both become straighter we need to be flexible on both sides of our bodies.

We often spend quite a lot of time building straightness in our horses with exercises, through ground work and then ridden, such as circles of all sizes, leg yields, shoulder-in and haunches in, these and other exercises help to progress a horse to where their muscles on left and right are working equally.

With this in mind we also need to WORK ON OURSELVES for straightness. We are either left or right handed. This means that our left or right sides are more dominant than the other, which is normal. What we need to do is become more ambidextrous to match the work we’re doing with our horses. This in time will allow us to be able to ride a straight line in harmony with our horses WITHOUT picking up the reins and I often test this theory to see how harmonious I am becoming with my horse. I also see an osteopath regularly to help straighten out any stiff points on my body that can’t be fixed by regular exercises.

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SO…what do I do to help myself become more flexible and equal on my left and right sides? I do ‘OTHER HAND EXERCISES’ (OH X’s). Well I do lots of ‘normal’ things but work with my OH regularly and more so in Winter because I have more time to practice being at home and not out exercising the horses. Here, to help you do the same, are some of the X’s I do, use your hands for tasks alternately so
that you don’t over do your harder side.

 

 

  1. Stirring things with your OH. (Tea, porridge, horse feed, soup, when cooking etc)
  2. Picking things up with your OH. (Paper on the floor, your shoes, your saddle etc)
  3. Washing. (Try something like your cup, washing your hair with OH doing main soaping)
  4. Brushing your hair.
  5. Holding your coffee/tea cup in OH.
  6. Using your knife and fork in OH’s.
  7. Folding your arms the ‘other way’.
  8. Crossing your legs the ‘other way’ and change sides if you’re curled up on the sofa.
  9. Getting on your horse from the ‘other side’…this really helps you AND your horse, make sure like all of these tasks you do BOTH sides equally (try this one out first by doing a test ‘mount’ onto a gate and for me using a mounting block or suitable obstacle is the best way to get on a horse)
  10. Writing…can be fun and really uses the ‘other side’ of your brain a LOT.
  11. Brush your teeth.
  12. Using the mouse or touch pad on your computer with your OH.
  13. Vacuuming….this one is great, there are 4 ways of helping your whole body become more symmetrical with this.
    (a) right hand on handle, right foot forward with a rocking body motion (right canter lead body dynamics)
    (b) right hand on handle, left foot forward (trot body dynamics)
    (c) left hand on handle, left foot forward (left canter lead body dynamics)
    (d) left hand on handle, right foot forward (trot body dynamics)
  14. Putting on horses rugs and saddle from other side using whole body differently.
  15. Turning pages on a book with OH.
  16. Leading your horse (or walking your dog on lead) from other side.
  17. Putting washing up on line using OH to do the pegs.
  18. Walking down the road doing little canter ‘skip’ gait, changing canter leads and really feeling if your head, shoulders and hips are aligned for canter is a great way of getting this smoother before trying on your horse.
  19. Household chores can be used as OH exercises…dusting and cleaning has a new purpose 😉
  20. Ironing can be done with your OH but be careful with this one!
  21. Putting shopping into basket and also putting them away at home can be done with your OH.
  22. Putting your OH and arm into your jacket first!
  23. Poo picking using different hands for picking and scraping
  24. Sweeping yard or garden patio using hands opposite to normal
  25. Filling hay nets with OH…quite a hard one so go slow

I’m sure you can think of lots of other tasks that can be tried out using your OH, it really does more than just use your OH, it uses your whole body and your brain to think about and do them well.

Make sure you build up your OH strength slowly, do a bit of something then go back to normal, then do more each day as your OH AND YOUR BRAIN get used to doing it. Bring in another OH X when you feel good with the first one and build up more as you go to keep it progressing. Make sure, like with horses, you do not over do it or you could become sore in muscles that aren’t used to being worked, and that will put you off doing more.

Have fun with this and see how well you and your horse are doing by trying to ride a straight line without any reins every now and then :)

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Get your Butterflies in Formation

ButterfliesDo you get butterflies in your stomach when working or riding your horse? Do they make you emotional? Do they upset your horse? Do you feel you can’t control their fluttering? If so then maybe these technique can help ‘get your butterflies in formation’ so that you can use that energy and focus positively instead of them distracting you and making you feel overwhelmed.

What I try to do is visualise the ‘feeling’ of ‘butterflies’ in my stomach. To me they are  seen as real butterflies with glorious colours all fluttering. When there are many of them due to high anxiety, energy or excitement then I try to make them useful to me and to have ‘control’ over them. To control them I ‘synchronise them and put them into ‘formation’.

 

a

 

 

I bring all of them down to just 6 butterflies visualised under my ribs towards my belly button in a 2 across, 3 down formation. Synchronising them means they start to all flutter with the same wing flaps and rhythm, this helps me control my energy and getting them into formation helps me create a focus of where to take that energy…this is then picked up by the horse and we start to become more harmonious because I am being more focused.

 

 

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To help bring the energy down in me, or my horse, I try to visualise those 6 butterflies flapping less and less and when it feels right I go from ‘seeing’ 6 butterflies to just 4.

 

 

 

c

 

As my energy, breathing and butterflies become more controlled I visualise just 2 butterflies becoming calmer and more synchronised.

 

 

 

d

 

Finally when everything is calm I see just one butterfly, representing a peaceful state. When that one is completely still it is in what I call ‘neutral’ and represents where the horse and I are usually connected standing still.

The single butterfly can flap low or high and it represents controlled connection and can build up to 2, 4 or 6 butterflies again in a controlled manner to help find the inner energy for upward and downward transitions. With this visual and with breathing techniques our horses can find us more harmonious to be with .

 

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Intent

connection

Intent, to me, is the thought and feel behind a request. We need to think about whether we’re asking in a dominant way (move NOW…), or a request (let’s move together…), or is it a plead (please, please move but please don’t leave me…) Trying to be an Alpha to our horses means that we need to request.

There are many types of intentions behind our requests too, such as love, fear, nerves.

Horses are very good at reading our intentions whether they are good or bad but also if we are calm and confident or nervous and fearful.

So, how should we use our intent around horses?

If we hold thoughts of dominating the horse then we have already mentally lost the horses trust and respect and can often be the reason why the horse starts being dominant with us as they feel our intent and defend themselves. (Of course this isn’t the only reason horses behave like this!)

Also if we plead then we are not being an alpha and the horse will be required to step up to do that job herself/himself.

If we hold onto thoughts of love, calmness and confidence then the horse will show calmness and confidence with us. What often happens though is that our mental intent or thoughts try to be calm, confident and full of love but are incongruent or conflicted with our energy and body language which may show fear and uncertainty. The horse can read this immediately and feels unsafe around us.

We must work on having our inside and outside intent the same so that the horse sees, feels and reads us and we don’t confuse them. Horses don’t have this incongruent behaviour, it’s a very human, predatory thing to do.

If we learn to think more of our herd requests as a ‘we’ connection, ‘we are backing up’, ‘ we are moving into canter’ then put some energy out and take the space under the horses feet either with a tool such as a training arm and string, swinging a rope or actually going to the spot and taking the space the horse is standing on then the requests start talking about ‘space’ and how to shape it the way we want our horses to be.

SO, if we start to ‘mirror our horses’, use ‘awareness and focus’, play with the game of ‘stick 2 me’, remember to request things using ‘alpha phases’ from ‘herd dynamics’ we can ‘shape the space’ between us and our horses with confident and positive ‘intent’ to create harmonious connections and ‘invisible horsemanship’ that is so refined, light, soft and balanced that we have the dance partner we always wanted.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Positive Thoughts

IMG_0320One of the hardest things I’ve found is to be able to train or teach a horse whilst still having fun.

Horses that are innately internal and sensitive, introverted and wise (what normal folk call stubborn, lazy and stupid) are often the horses we can offend the most. They don’t show their feelings like extroverts do, they don’t run around taking offence at our high energy or kick out in a strop. They are much more subtle than that! Introverted horses need to feel they are loved just for themselves and training can’t seem like normal training to them or they become mentally, emotionally and physically braced and a brace in the mind is a brace in the body! Sometimes this brace looks like stubbornness, sometimes an extreme brace can make a horse look lame!

So, how can we find a way to help train our shy horses? I think we need to look back at our childhoods and remember why we love horses in the first place. We often have no idea why these beautiful animals tug at our hearts so much but we do know that as children we just want to run with them, play with them, brush them and love them unconditionally.

How can we train with fun you ask?

I feel we need to ‘Find the Child Within Us’ again to train with fun. Once any safety issues are smoothed out then we can still train with fun, this way we stop making it ‘personal’ to our horses and they will enjoy training and being around us.

Firstly what we we need to do is change the mental attitude we may bring to our horses when training. Our mental attitudes often are of doing things TO the horse, doing things to bring about CHANGES to the horse, doing things to the horse that changes his attitude or physicality! This is just too personal for a horse to take, it’s like ‘Bullying your Best Friend’!! If we think of our horses with us as a herd, of being partners, of being best friends and then ask for things in a way that isn’t personal then the horse won’t be offended.

Here are some idea’s:

1) When asking your horse to back up try saying something like ‘ooh, dropped something, better pick that up quickly’ and smile whilst stepping forward towards your horse. I did this the other day with my very introverted mare and she went back very willingly as there wasn’t anything about moving her backwards in my thoughts or voice, no demands, just needing to do something and she moved out of the way for me.

2) When moving hq’s maybe try saying something like… ‘ooh, forgot my gloves at the gateway’ and walk towards the horses hindquarters whilst bringing the rope slightly upwards. Horse will move their hq’s over quickly without us being specific about a particular move. We could also do same thing but move towards horses forehand for a forehand move over whilst walking.

3) Even when doing something like circling or other circular/half circular patterns we can have a totally different attitude to doing these by adding lots of ‘YES’s’ when every little thing goes right….lightness onto circle, YES, bending to the inside, YES, how beautiful horsey is, YES. Works very well when riding too, lightness off leg, YES, turning without brace, YES, leg yielding like floating dance together, YES.

4) Extreme familiarisation  with stick and string can be more of a feeling of helping horses swish flies away, very good fun and they really appreciate it, with this ‘helping horse’ in our minds we have no anxiety, no agenda too.

5) With impulsion try claiming the space ‘ behind the horse in a game of ‘tag’ which gives it more of a game attitude.

6) Finding impulsion when riding can be challenging for an introverted horse too. BUT if you start with small point 2 points (going from one thing to another like corners, cones, barrels) and putting things in your mind like ‘quick, we need to get to the corner before the bear eats us’ (moving away from something) OR ‘wow, there’s a chocolate biscuit on the barrel how quickly can we get to it before someone else gets it’ (moving towards something). People are usually motivated positively by either  ‘moving away’ or ‘moving towards’ things, find out which you are motivated by and use this technique for positive results.

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Extroverted horses enjoy this method too as they are often very playful. If they are a worried type of horse this can work too as by making things a ‘game’ and with a playful attitude it takes fear pressure off and they can relax and learn more easily.

Our attitude and thoughts can really make a big difference between making training fun or making training work!

I hope you manage to find the child inside you and remember to have FUN 😉

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Shaping Space

shapingspace

Moving to more refined requests with our horses is where we all want to be, using strategies such as ‘Undemanding Time’, ‘Mirroring Your Horse’, ‘Stick 2 Me’ and having ‘Awareness & Focus’ with ‘The Connection’ we should find that we are becoming more harmonious with our horses, the ‘dance’ is starting.

(Check all ‘titles’ above in previous ‘ARTICLES’)

How do we refine the moves we already know? How do we make non-personal, non-threatening requests to a horse?

I do it using a mental image of moving ‘Space’ rather than moving a horse’s body.  Here’s how I try to think of space between me and a horse:

1) SHARING SPACE: This is where I ask a horse to be close with me on a shared mutual path. Sometimes this may mean the horse is following me, sometimes I am following the horse but eventually I have found that we start being together in a mutual dance of understanding.  I use this sharing space method of connecting in my  ‘STICK 2 ME’ training which  is talked about in another article.

2) PROTECTING SPACE: This is where I set up and keep the space distance between me and my horse(s) as we walk or keeping the space that is around us within a herd situation.

If another horse comes up that I am not working with I will protect the space me and my horse are in from others and often when working with two horses at once I protect my space, the space of the horse to my left and also the one to my right individually so that there are no other herd dynamics going on between them and whilst they are with me they both know that I will protect their space so that we can all relax in a peaceful environment.

If horses of different levels in the herd hierarchy are working with me at one time I let them know I am alpha by protecting my own space well and they are all then on the next level down but none of them higher or lower than each other, just me above only, that way they can relax and listen to my requests without worrying about being moved by the other horse.

3) CLAIMING SPACE: If  the space I create with a horse is changed by that horse moving in to me, thereby taking my space, I reclaim the part I have lost. I also use this claim of space to ask for transitions, I claim the space behind them so that I am not telling the horse to move faster ‘or else’, I am just claiming the grazing under their back feet, this is less bossy and a way herd members move others without being dominant. Being aware of the space I set up at all  times helps make me mentally strong in the herd.

4) SHAPING SPACE: I try to get my own body to create a shape that I ask the horse to copy, once the space between us is understood a horse will very usually bend or move the way we ask and copy our own energy levels to remain synchronised in the herd ‘dance’. Working with this on the ground first helps both parties to create that shape and then recreate it when riding. Shaping space can get very refined, sometimes I ask the horse to just move one part slightly differently to create the shape needed for a move, such as moving the barrel just a small bit away from me to create a better arc in the whole of his body to help with turns and circles. This sort of shaping involves mentally and physically claiming the small area back from the horses space or bubble.

5) OPENING & CLOSING SPACE: I mentally open area’s that I would like the horse to go into and as those spaces open I close others mentally to shut off where I don’t want us to go. This can be refined and very specific in such things as gait, speed of gait, lateral moves but starts with just the basics of left, right, forward, stop and backup.

6) BLOCKING SPACE: I use a ‘block’ if a horse comes into my space without  asking or tries to take my space by walking into it. This does not mean I don’t allow horses to play or have their own ideas but sometimes with some horses we need to re-direct their thoughts to something we’re trying to teach them or to block and protect our space if they get high energy at an inappropriate time.

When using space shaping techniques I make sure that I check myself regularly to see if I am asking something of the horse that I am truly showing in my own body because if we don’t ask the right question or ask the question right in our thoughts and body then the result won’t be what we thought it would be. With new requests I tend to exaggerated my body movements to help my horse see the shape I’m making but once the horse understands that can quickly be refined into more elegant movements.

Also I use a mental image of me in a personal space ‘bubble’, the horse in its own personal space ‘bubble’ but those bubbles are touching when we’re connected and I can change that bubble diameter for draw/drive or to have the horse closer or further away. I know it may sound farfetched but if you work visually then having these kinds of pictures in your mind helps the connection as it defines the space you’re in better so that the horse can pick up on that intuitively. Once I’ve sorted this all in my brain it comes instinctually and I don’t have to mentally ‘think’ about it in such detail. My main thoughts would be on where we’re going, what gait and if we’re shaping correctly for the movement we’re doing also I’m constantly reminding myself of ‘what I am trying to achieve’ with each movement/shape.

Thinking on this ‘bubble’ connection we must not think of our horses running off when at liberty if they have a yeehaa moment, they are always connected to us, our bubbles just have to extend to accommodate the space between us, they forget we can’t ‘play’ like they can. If we think or feel disconnected it is US that has disconnected not them. They don’t think about us not keeping up with them, they’re just playing, so keep ‘mentally’ connected, recall them or keep the connection until you are closer. On that note you must remember to ‘disconnect’ when leaving them to go home.

It really is all about ‘Space’, how much is between us, is it mutually shared, is personal space understood, are there still claiming space issues from your horse or are you in control of your space? Horses really do learn to read our thoughts as our thoughts shape our bodies without us realising it SO make sure you are fully aware of what your body shapes are conveying to your horse and once you find that harmony within space then just ‘dance’ together.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Breathing

I’ve found, through my own journey as a student and now as an instructor, that breathing is one of the main things I think and talk about. Why, I hear you say? we all breathe so why do I need to talk about breathing? Well, funnily enough, quite often we forget to breathe, especially in a calm, soft, rhythmic way, in all sorts of situations such as:

Concentrating on learning something

Fear of something known coming up

Fear of something unknown coming up

Excitement

Intent focus on one thing

We go introverted and many other reasons.

Horses are very aware of breathing and if we hold our breath for any reason the horse feels this, our body changes from soft to slightly stiff. Holding our breath could be interpreted by a horse as us going introverted, thereby they need to start leading, it could be interpreted also as us in a freeze moment before flight and the horse goes on edge ready to flee with us, whatever the reason holding our breath isn’t good. Irregular breathing isn’t good either as it doesn’t ‘flow’ well or give harmony to our movements.

What we need to do when around our horses is to remember to breathe, it helps to relax us and our horses and we can start using our breathing as a cue to what we want. To help us do this there is an exercise we can start doing on the ground that will help us to remember to breathe, start doing this as soon as you are confident and comfortable leading your horse around with the Stick 2 Me principle (see S2M article).

1) You at horses neck (or further back as your progress your Stick 2 Me exercise), horse working in a nice confident, rhythmic walk with you.

2) Get in time with your horses front feet, left to left, right to right.

3) Start counting footfalls, 1,2,3,4….1,2,3,4…..1,2,3,4.

4) Breathe in for the count of 4. Breathe out for the count of 4.

Once you start getting a good breath routine of 4 in, 4 out then start trying to relax your lungs and stomach and getting more breaths in/out without changing the rhythm of your footfalls. You will hopefully find that you can count to 5 in, 5 out very quickly, then 6 in, 6 out and onwards. See how far you can count BUT don’t forget to play Stick 2 Me with your horse and walk lots of patterns to keep him/her interested. Don’t become TOO focused on your breathing and forget other things. It may be good to start practising counting breaths whilst just walking without your horse, maybe while walking your dog or walking down the road. If you find you are forgetting to breathe a lot then maybe sing or whistle as you have to breath regularly to do these.

Start teaching stop/start cues with breathing. From halt to walk breathe in and bring your lungs/chest upwards and forwards for a walk on cue. Big Breathe out (make a noise like blowing out birthday candles) and bring your lungs/chest down for a halt.

breathingBig breath out to halt, using obstacles to refine this to perfection

Once you have the stop/start cues then you can start refining this to where you can breathe out slightly and continue breathing at that level for a transition down without a stop. Each horse/human finds their own levels of breathing in/out that they respond to so you must practice and find what works for your horse and you to become more in harmony. Just remember breathe out for slower/stopa nd breathe in for walk/trot/canter on.

Also remember to breathe and count steps when riding, this can really help you and your horse to relax, especially when doing  lateral moves or a dressage test and if you are doing a jumping course you will find you and your horse relax if you can teach yourself to remember to breathe OUT when going over the jump.

Again, as with all the exercises and principles I’ve written about, once you have thought about them, practised them and incorporated them into your way with your horse it becomes instinctive and only when you go somewhere new, or something unexpected happens, do you have to remember to breathe, and you can go straight to counting breaths to bring about relaxation again. All the principles can be refined and refined and refined again…remember, we’re aiming for ‘Invisible Horsemanship’

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

 

 

Stick 2 Me

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Stick 2 Me is where a horse and human connect through thought, energy and body cues in a synchronise  ‘dance’. I use this ‘dance’ more than any other as it brings together ‘Mirroring’ and ‘Awareness & Focus’ (see previous articles on these).

 

I start S2M with halt/walk transitions online, then I add backup, then I add trot and often then go to a neck rope and then liberty. I then add canter but only when there is a real connection to the transitions. I take slow steps and never progress onwards until the lower gaits are in place well.  S2M is also how I like to lead a horse.

Here are the steps I use to do this:

1) I hold the lead rope in my outer hand, standing by my horses head/neck with my inner hand on the horses shoulder.

2)  I breathe in and think ‘walk on’ in an ‘up and forward’ body cue.

3) I count two (or more if a slower thinking horse) before moving off, then breathe normally.

4) If the horse does not follow then I try the steps above again and then tap on the horses shoulder with my inside hand as a cue to move forward. If tapping the horse doesn’t work then I put the lead rope in my inside hand and create some impulsion by swinging the end of the lead rope towards the horses rump. Soon the horse will be listening to my breathing cues to walk on and the tap is not necessary.

5) I try to make sure our footfalls are the same, left with left, right with right so that we are more harmonious.

6) When going up a gait I again breathe in with the thought in my mind of ‘up and forwards’ into that gait, then I wait two seconds before doing that gait in my body. My aim is to be able to simulate the gait I want in my focus and core without having to physically trot/canter myself.

7)  When going down a gait I breathe out loudly so that my horse can hear me, this lowers my inner energy for a halt or backup.

8) When going down a gait but not stopping I make sure my breath out is only to the level of gait I want, this takes a while to get right and testing your breath out and breath in and seeing the results your horse gives you is the guide to how much you need to do. Remember that a BIG noisy breath out should be halt and by refining your core breathing you will find those subtle gait changes as you go along.

Once I have a good connection with a horse the techniques of stick 2 me can become quickly refined and will start to look like you are using invisible cues. But to do it well you need a lot of practice to really get into our horses hooves through our thoughts, energy levels and body language.

When starting to play with stick 2 me I often follow the horse in a mirroring style, this helps the horse relax and start to notice me more. Then whilst I’m following him I will put in some of my own moves to see if he will follow me. The horse, being a curious animal by nature when confident and safe, will start to notice that and I continue this exchange of ideas between us until after a while we are following each other and often you can’t tell who is following who, we’re just together.

I start Stick 2 me by standing next to the horses head or neck, then I work from the shoulders, later on I work near the hip and then I see if I can lead from behind the horse with him out in front of me. I also make sure I work on both the left and right sides equally to help with my relaxation and flexibility principles.
Stick 2 Me

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Awareness & Focus

awarenessfocusAwareness is being in the moment, knowing what is going on around us in the environment and also inside us, our feelings. Focus is having a plan. I use Mental focus and Body focus

Mental focus is basically our thoughts. Good mental focus involves taking a plan and breaking it down into smaller steps, visualizing those individual steps so that our bodies follow that picture and building it all up to have the plan in action.

Body focus is knowing about and using body language. Knowing the way our body moves, with energy and purpose.

What you need to be aware of when around your horse are things like where your body is in relation to his, is he pushing into your personal space, is the environment safe, where are other horses in the field and how are they behaving! All these things take awareness and if your horse sees and feels your awareness and confidence then he can be confident that you’re looking after the situation.

With awareness and focus we learn to know how the horse moves and where the horse is likely to move to. They understand body language very well so it is us that needs to learn how to use ours better to help us become in better harmony with them.

Once we’ve learned about awareness and focus they become second nature. It’s like driving a car, when you start you have a lot to think about such as checking the mirrors, changing gears, which foot for acceleration or braking and indicating left and right, and also where all the other car users are. Also all the smaller things such as keeping windows clear for vision, checking the petrol and oil, making sure the engine is running smoothly and many other jobs. It seems overwhelming to start with but soon we do it all instinctively, and this is what learning invisible horsemanship is like too. Once we learn how to be aware and to use our focus well it all becomes second nature.

To have a horse confident in us because we’re aware of everything and so focused we don’t get side tracked is the mark of someone our horse is happy to follow.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Mirroring Your Horse

I have had many people asking how I get my horses SO in tune with me but I explain that it’s more of me being in tune with them first, then them getting in tune with me and then us having a mutually focused partnership through trust and respect.

MirrorWhen I first started my journey into Natural Horsemanship my horse Tara and I had quite a good relationship, getting into the journey more and allowing my horse to have a ‘say’ about things that we did together brought around a turn of events that really foxed me and I didn’t know what to do. She decided that she really didn’t want to be around me (or any human really) and giving her the freedom to choose to run off whenever I asked her to be with me was a hard decision. I can understand why many people start Natural Horsemanship with this same intent only to be foxed like this and going back to their normal routine with the thought that NH had ruined their horse BUT I decided to figure out what Tara needed from me so that we could continue our journey and start that partnership that I always wanted.

What I realised pretty quickly was that Tara was quite a shut down horse, quiet, calm, sensitive and did ‘as she was told’ because that’s the way she had been trained. Being such a sensitive soul she showed her ‘compliance’ by being obedient but not willing, by which I mean she did what I asked in a slow, bored way that made me work harder than her and if I really asked too much she went ‘blank’ or would try to run off, especially at liberty where the truth always comes out.

So, after much thought I knew that I needed Tara to catch me in the field not the other way around. She was very good at being caught, standing still and freezing whilst I put the head collar on but if I asked her to catch me she’d run off and that wasn’t the partnership I wanted with my beauty.

I woke up one day and had an idea…’I’m going to mirror her today and try to be with her in her world, show her that I can be there as a herd member and not just with her for training’. This decision helped me to realise that to have a partnership with my horse I needed to request things with a two way conversation rather than demand things and to see if I could gain willingness rather than servitude.

So, I started off in the field about 50’ away from her (she turned her head away if I got any closer and I knew that was her cue for leaving), I started stepping as she stepped, turning when she turned and stopping when she stopped. After a few hours and lots of slow progress I was standing about 5’ away from her, taking each slow step with her as she grazed, putting weight on the back, front or side of my foot like she did as she slowly moved. I turned my head the way she did, lifted it when she did, started to see her muscles move in her legs, her chest move as she breathed.

After another few hours we were very much in harmony, steps, moves, breathing and then about 5 hours into the experiment she stood for about half an hour totally still, almost asleep watching over the other three horses as they lay down to sleep. This part was hardest of all. I moved, brushed flies off me, scratched itches and generally not ‘in the moment’ with her at all. BUT I did start to realise this and managed to really become a sleeping horse with her, it was like meditating. In a HUGE moment she then lay down next to me and I sat down with her for another 15 mins. That moment will always be very special in my life as she showed me that to be in her world, on her time, with her peace she was willing to allow me in and showed me true trust by laying down with me.

Since that moment Tara has always come to catch me but I have to ask her permission to enter her realm every time by squatting down when she looks at me and open my heart to shower her with thoughts of love and when I do that and open my arms to her she comes to me willingly on her terms.

She has taught me patience I never knew I had and the awareness that if I allow things to happen through mutual respect and trust then it will happen, but I have to believe. It’s not just about what I want, it’s about what we want together, as partners.

I also find that when I play the game of ‘Stick 2 Me’ that I can quickly get connected with her, and other horses, physically, mentally and emotionally because of the things I learned from those 6 hours one day on a Scottish hillside.

So, if you ever have the time to dedicate to mirroring your horse and not put a time limit on it then I really believe you and your horse can find deep bond by doing this. I’ve done little bits of this with Tara now and then and have done similar, shorter versions of it with the other members of our herd. It really does help to teach about how a horse moves, watching what they do during a day and reminds me daily that when I play or ride them that I’m doing a lot more with them than they do themselves when left to their own devices in their herd so I try to mirror them a bit and see if they’ll mirror me in the start of our dance together and that then brings about the game I play called ‘Stick 2 Me’ which I will talk about in another article soon.

Image00003You can also ‘Mirror Your Horse’ when riding. Make sure your horse is calm, remembers you are up on it’s back and not spooky before doing this, start in a small area like a round pen. Allow the horses movement to move your body in harmony with it’s own. Shoulders with shoulders, hips with hips. This task will find you a better seat and balance and allow you to not ‘be in control’ all the time, to allow the horse to have some say in your journey together. Friendship and partnerships are all about both sides having a say so enjoy learning how your horse moves and keep breathing in harmony too.

* Shelley – HorseSavvy

 

 

The Connection

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I often get asked why I work so much at liberty with my own horses and my reply is ‘to test our connection’. For me it’s this connection that holds the key to everything I do with horses, all ground work, handling and ultimately riding. But how is this connection created?

For me it is very much a mental (focus) and heart (emotion) connection that is created by being ‘in the moment’ and ‘with the horse’ at all times when in their company. It is also integrated with the ‘energy’ of my body. If I can focus on what I want to achieve with my horse and on what my own body is doing then we can become ‘connected’. SO, everything I do, feel, breath and focus on transfers to my horse. I think positively on what I’m trying to do NOW and allow my body and mind to shape the body and mind of my horse so that we become ‘dance partners’.

Slowly the connection can become deeper and deeper so that my physical/body moves become more invisible but my inner mind/focus becomes stronger and once the horse is invited to partner up they really follow that focussed lead.

It can be hard to achieve if your mind is constantly thinking of other things so the first task you have to try is to empty your mind of other things and just be in the moment with your horse. It’s like a dance where we collectively move together that brings about a mutual understanding of space around us.

A more visual way of thinking about your horse connection can be of how you share space together and I will write more about Sharing Space in another article.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Sollylibertywinter2

‘Can you draw your horse OR is your horse drawn to you’ 😉