Predator vs Predatory

Whilst watching a very interesting docu-film recently I discovered something I was initially aware of as a child but which I forgot about. Scientific discoveries and processing our teeth shows that we are actually NOT PREDATORS.

Predators have sharp, pyramidic teeth for tearing flesh, just look at a dog. We have some ‘canine’ teeth, which are used for fighting which funnily enough other prey animals can have including horses.

SO, from now on I will not be calling humans predators, but that we can be ‘PREDATORY’ in our behaviour 

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

 

Want vs Need

This is about what we might WANT and what our horses NEED and how to find the balance so that progress can be made.

Often we may want many things from our horses, for them to fulfil our dreams in a competitive way is the big one but also many small ones such as we want our horses to be perfect, know how to engage their bodies or even just calm for grooming.

What I have noticed is that if we allow the horse the timeline (ie. They get to say what they can do when and where) and we help them by being non-predatory and kind then we all win. We find what we want by allowing the horse what they need and if we don’t there often ensues a predatory vs prey animal argument.

I wanted to talk about an eye opener for me when I brought our new horse Bella from the field she’d been in with Stormy, the first three months of her being with us, to our winter paddock behind our house. It’s just a mile down a lovely track and our herd have been doing this change for about 10yrs now. She was a bit sceptical about coming out of her ‘home field’ but was interested in her surroundings and willing to follow our big boy Stormy with his confident manner of the route and snatching at fab grass along the way. We allowed them to stop regularly for a good look about and chance to graze, which Stormy did but Bella didn’t apart from snatching at some silver birch branches.

It was interesting to see how much they were mirroring  each other, where they looked and  where they stopped. About half way home Bella, and then Stormy, deposited a poo each…like a sign post as to where they’d come and how to get back. We got them to their new ‘home paddock’, gave them some hay and allowed them to check out their new ‘digs’. Bella sometimes led the way, sometimes she followed Stormy but they stayed close together.

Over a few days it was also interesting to see how much he settled into things again and how she kept standing looking back to where the other field was…her ‘home’, but it was also very interesting to see how Stormy helped her. He never pushed her, made her go away from her ‘lookout place’ and he never insisted she follow him. What he actually did was pamper her in her lookout place, make sure she was watching and following him when we put out their meals and allowed her to feel safe, confident and calm before venturing away from her. He was making sure she was alright because he knew that once she was alright the herd was alright. He’s a very clever boy.

In the meantime I ‘wanted’ to take her for short walks, do some training and get on with what we’d been doing in the big field but I realised that what she NEEDED was more important that what I WANTED.

She needed to feel safe, to feel confident and happy in her new surroundings, to be able to be relaxed and responsive and not fearful and reactive here. For me to push her out of her comfort zone so early in a strange place would not have been conducive to a happy partnership between us. For me to allow her to settle and feel able to think while I asked her to do stuff I know she already knew was the best way to spend that time…time settling. I needed to think more like Stormy and less like a trainer.

 

I remember learning that horses have 5 Confidences and these are (THELL)

  1. Confident in THEMSELVES (Bella and Stormy are pretty confident in themselves)
  2. Confident in the HERD (Bella is confident in Stormy and also Mark and me too through consistent handling, feeding and play)
  3. Confident in their ENVIRONMENT (which with Bella had just dramatically changed with the new field)
  4. Confident in LEARNING (which she is getting better at but changing fields comes with a lot of near learning…where the water is, where the best grazing is, what are all the new noises around our house, being near a track where vehicles go along, seeing walkers and cyclists on that track)
  5. Confident in their LEADER (Bella is confident in Stormy because he allows her time to be herself, she is also confident in me as I also allow her time to be herself and to listen to the ‘thresholds’ she has with new things and places)

 

I like to think that being a horse ‘trainer’ (as we all are that have horses) should not be about the ‘goal’ or the ‘competition’ but about the needs of our animal, our Connection, Trust and Friendship and that we help our horses find relaxation when we’re with them whatever we’re doing  and with that anything is possible. Our priority should be about how to help them feel  calm, safe and  happy when they’re with us. We must never break that friendship or trust because it’s easy to lose but hard to gain.

 

Shelley – HorseSavvy

YET is the Best Progress Word

We are always in the process of learning and this can be frustrating when what we want to do isn’t as easy to achieve as we thought.  When working with horses (or any animal) we can ask what we want, we can get the right positioning and the right technique but the animal always has the timeline. What does that mean I hear you say?

The TIMELINE is the amount of time the animal needs to be relaxed and figure something out, whether it needs to become acclimatised to something flapping about, time to figure out something new, time to just think really. We need to allow them to do this so they have the timeline on everything, we can’t rush them or they can become frightened or shut down and can cause innate reactions of Flight, Fight, Freeze (or even shutting down or learned helplessness).

So if the horse has the timeline and you’re trying to progress and even you become worried about doing something new then this is where the word YET can help you not get frustrated. Whenever I am trying to do something but I know we have more progress to achieve then I use the word YET at the end of a sentence such as:

 

We can’t do that YET

We can’t figure that out YET

We haven’t tried that YET

We  haven’t tried riding YET

We  won’t try that just YET

 

 

By putting YET at the end of a negative sentence will change it into a positive sentence and helps you  feel that you can achieve things once you’ve got more skills, techniques, bravery, trust, willingness and confidence.

So next time you think about saying ‘We can’t do that’ then just put a YET at the end of it and put yourself on your horse’s timeline.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

 

 

What have you been teaching your horse today?

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Every time you are with your horse you are teaching her something SO…’what are you teaching your horse today?’

You might be teaching her to stand patiently to be fed or saddled. You may be teaching her that it’s peaceful and calm to be around you. You may be teaching her to walk with you step for step. Praise a lot for the good things. Stroking, saying good girl, standing still together and smiling a lot can all be rewards for your horse.

BUT you might also be teaching her to be impatient or excitable, to walk off when trying to mount or to be saddled. You may inadvertently be teaching her to be pushy or to bite but by giving a treat or her dinner when she is being like that.  You must try to ignore the things you don’t want or have caused your horse to do by rewarding at the wrong time. Learning can often be the smallest bit of bad timing such as you stopping what you’re doing when your horse is doing something you don’t want. Unfortunately stopping at the wrong time causes the horse to think they’ve done the right thing. Better to stop on a good note after a short session than a bad note having taught the wrong thing.

You are also teaching your horse what your own energy, body language and verbal language means. Try to be mindful of your own way of being so as not to teach your horse that your high negative energy means her energy to be up too. If you are fearful or worried do not take that to your horse and expect them to be calm and quiet, you must find a way of lowering your inner energy to have a calm thinking horse. Also do not go around saying negative things to your horse or calling her names, they do not understand the words but they certainly understand the energy behind them, the tone and the inflection. Ignore the things you don’t want and praise what you do like, in yourself too.

SO…be aware of everything you do and what response or reaction you get from your horse. Be aware of all that your horse does and mostly try to get  the little things between you done well so that bad habits don’t become big problems,.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

 

Making Plans

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We all like to make plans and we all enjoy different bits of those plans

  1. We may like the beginning where  things are new and exciting and we write down all our idea’s, putting things into order and get ready to go BUT often if things put you off starting then you may not start at all.
  2. Some of us like the middle bit where  the first scary bit has been scaled and we settle into the routine of the ‘plan’ at hand and it often makes us feel safe but it can often halt our progress.
  3. Others like to rush to the end without often really taking enough time over the middle bit where it matters most . These people do finish the task but sometimes procrastinate about another start.So, figuring out which one you are is very helpful as you can then be aware of what you normally do when starting a new thing. From there you can work well in the knowledge that you need to enjoy all three parts of a PLAN.

Another thing we often do is make a big thing about getting or having a plan. We often put a date when we want to start or end  which puts pressure on us before even begin, this is why New Years resolutions are often marked for failure, especially if you want to do something outside like horsemanship or getting fit, as the weather can be against us and if we’re one of the people that has difficulty starting something then our plan has stopped before it’s begun and that can be the end of our enthusiasm and the plan altogether.

SO…how can we help our plans GO to plan?

Firstly we need to be very realistic about what we want such as I want to feel fitter because it will be good for me and my horse OR I want to help my horse find relaxation in our training so that it’s more fun for us both. Usually if we try something like ‘I want to loose 3 stone before Easter’ and it’s only just past Xmas or ‘I want to ride a 50k endurance ride’ without any smaller plans to get there, is not setting yourself up for success. Remember too that it’s not just about physical success or failure it’s about mental and emotional success or failure. If you take care of your mental state and make tasks achievable then your happiness at doing that will help push you on to your goal.

Maybe try writing out a plan with three different scales to help you on good days and hard days. The three scales I use for whatever plan I make are: Beginners, Medium, Advanced. I can have a plan for something like ‘Riding new horse OR  jog for fitness’ and it would look something like this:

Beginners:  Riding – walk arena in a nice harmonious pace (Fitness – walk to gate and back)
Medium:  Riding – trot arena in a nice harmonious pace (Fitness – jog slowly to gate and back)
Advanced: Riding – canter arena in a nice harmonious pace (Fitness – jog fast to gate and back)

I could change each week the gait or distance I do but it gives me a place to back down to or a place to advance without making me feel I’ve not achieved anything. I find if I don’t give myself these ‘permissions’ I often don’t do anything at all and that can become stuck before I’ve begun. Also adjust your plan weekly to make sure you’re working to a plan you can follow but also make sure that it progresses.

I also try not to give myself a date to start or finish or do things like weigh myself for me getting fit as it’s about enjoying the journey, finding my own pace and loving the fresh air and scenery. When I feel fit in myself then to me I’m fit. It’s the same with my horsemanship. I know when I’m working better because I don’t have to think about what I’m doing, I don’t get out of breath, I don’t run out of ideas and I don’t realise how much time I’ve been playing until after the session which went well because there were no time restraints on what I was doing.

Having a plan is great but make that plan DO-ABLE for yourself. Don’t worry about what others are doing but ask for help from a good source if you need it, don’t be afraid to ask for help and keep progressing if that’s what your goal is. Also don’t over do things and put yourself off doing more or even strain yourself if exercising so that your plan has to be put on hold. If anything happens always make sure you get around to re-starting your plan, don’t just let life get in the way, make time for yourself.

Remember that ‘Practice Makes PROGRESS’ and if your plan is good for you and you adapt as you go then you’ll soon find your goal is achievable.

‘A good plan today is better than the perfect plan tomorrow’ 😉

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

 

 

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’.

 

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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.

 

 

b

 

 

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

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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

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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