Spirit and I have been getting our online communication better and better by working on the 3F basics (Familiarisation, Feel, Focus techniques of HorseSavvy) for 3 1/2 months he’s been with us now. I love it when the ABC’s we started with become more sentences and then paragraphs of connection through communication. Today we started getting more of that connection by using the 3F techniques with more fluidity and using obstacles which helps in using the ‘games’ for a ‘purpose’.
Flight Checks are what I do after playing with my horse and before I ride off from the mounting block. I make sure I have brakes and can move all four feet in all four directions (forward, back, left and right). It also lets me assess whether I have a good Connection and to help the horse get balanced and flexible before riding off. If anything needs working on I will either stay with it until softer and lighter or I’ll get off and work on it from the ground.
Here is a short film of the Flight Checks I do and how they can progress. I hope it helps to remind you to offer and find the ‘light feel’ on the reins, where our weight should be and to use our focus, seat and leg aids before using the reins.
Once you and your horse can do these with lightness and no brace you will find you will need them less and less. I use them before riding off and practice them now and then but because our ‘muscle memories’ in our bodies and brains have the techniques and actions stored we can use them when necessary (ie. an emergency halt w/relaxation) but can now refine them so that my breathing out and a lift of the rein is suffice to halt. I want the muscle memories there for if and when I need them…this one rein halt will not work well if the memories aren’t there, we would both be so far removed from relaxation that it would actually cause more tension and braciness….if we can avoid that and teach ourselves and our horses to have a ‘trigger’ of relaxation when the rein is lifted then we will all be safer in an emergency situation that hopefully never happens.
Communication is a two way thing and to have a great connection to your horse you need to listen as well as talk. This might mean that you don’t do exactly what YOU want at times but you will get to do your thing with a better attitude if you allow your horse to have their say about something or to allow your horse to have some input on what you do together.
We need to watch and understand if the horse is saying something to us. We can see this by watching and learning how to read their body language for any tenseness or relaxation in their eyes/ears/neck/nostrils. It can also show in their back, stomachs and whether they’re calm and rhythmic in their gait or choppy and tight or whether their tails are quiet or swishing.
Horses talk more with their body language so it’s up to us to learn how to use our own bodies to help create more harmonious silent communication. If we learn body shaping dynamics to create our ‘conversations’ then the horse will ‘read’ and see what we are saying very well, with this and breathing/energy concepts we and our horses can become so connected we’re not sure who is leading who in the horse/human dynamic.
YES….our horses are our teachers and we need to learn to LISTEN to what they’re saying to us. Their feedback when we ask something of them is the part of the conversation that is crucial to how we interact with them. Whether that feedback is positive or negative we need to take note and learn how to have more positive conversations. Is the feedback telling us we asked the question correctly or incorrectly for them? are they saying that they do or don’t like something? Are they saying they understand or is it saying they don’t understand?
I like to think of it as going over to my best friends house. I always try to take something to the meeting, it’s polite and nice to give and receive. I always try to have time to have a ‘catching up’ conversation with my friend, say hello to the rest of the family and animals and then have a conversation about what we’re going to be doing, where we are going etc. This is called communicating and it takes two or more parties to have a conversation.
For me, it’s the same when I visit our herd, or when seeing friends or students herds too. I introduce myself, ask them how they are doing, check them out by stroking them all over, taking in whether they’re relaxed or anxious and then asking if they want to be connected to me in that moment. If they walk off I ask again but make sure I ask in an even softer way maybe, if they’re anxious I do my best to find a way to introduce relaxation into the conversation so that they realise they can be calm and happy around me.
So, to learn what our horses are trying to teach us we need to really listen to what they are saying through their body language and find ways to have more harmonious conversations and a willing partner in our equine pursuits.
The start of horsemanship can be hard, you are learning the ABC’s of the dance and it takes time, patience, consistency and persistence to get better. It’s easy to just give up but if you keep going it is SO worth it as after the ABC’s of learning you then start to get a CONNECTION which is where all the FUN starts.
Once you have a connection you can start COMMUNICATION and once you get that then long CONVERSATIONS can be had between you and your horse. These conversations are ‘THE DANCE’ and it feels soft, light, together and fabulous.
SO…..keep learning the steps so that you and your horse have wonderful dances together 🙂