Listening to what horses are telling us is an integral part of horsemanship. It helps to keep us as partners as the conversations we have together should be two way, it also helps keep us all safe.
We must remember that no matter how much training, how good our horses are or even how great our connection that horses are prey animals. Some have a huge flight instinct and some are calmer, some run before they can think, others think before they can run. Their innate behaviour is not going to change with training but hopefully through good techniques and helping them to learn how to relax and respond rather than get hyper and react will help them become more rounded and centred and what I think good training should do.
Today I was out playing with some techniques online with big Stormy….he just could not connect to me in one part of the field so I got him to where he was connecting back to me more then retreated to where he felt more responsive and happy. I knew he would not be concentrating in that spot if I decided to ride there so went back to where he was listening to me and rode there.
The next time I go out I will address this issue more as I find it fascinating to be able to take the time to help him (or any horse) that needs more approach and retreat with an issue, so they start to focus and become soft and relaxed and can listen to me because the ‘worrying thing’ is not longer a worry.
This is what made Stormy inattentive….
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 🙂