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I rode for many years with trainers from a variety of backgrounds… European, South American, dressage, jumper… When they looked at me they saw: my tack, my position, what I was doing right and wrong, and my goals…
The one subject I now consider as the most important, they never mentioned. The most import and obvious is the HORSE!
They never asked me questions such as:
Where is your horse’s mind today?
How is your horse feeling?
Is he RESPECTFUL today?
What was his attitude when you greeted him in his pasture or stall?
How may his attitude affect today’s ride?
Through a combination of neighbors and a few recommendations, we came into contact with a “whisperer” type- although he didn’t call himself that. I audited a two day clinic and was very impressed with what I saw. For the entire length of the clinic he never mentioned anything that I had heard before. The clinician started by taking a horse who to our untrained eye, looked like just any other horse. Right away he began to point out “signs” that could show us what the horse was thinking, feeling, how he was going to react to us, and so forth. These things looked so obvious once we auditors knew what to look for.
The clinician showed us ways to recognize when our horse was “processing” and accepting information and questions that we asked of us. Realizing that after so many years of lessons and training, I had never once considered my horse: I began to stir around new thoughts and ideas and questions about how I was interacting with my horse. I had never understood the connection that having a good communication with my horse while I was on the ground could so greatly affect my rides. I had never thought to RESPECT my horse’s feelings or mood; I had always treated him as something waiting to serve me, as opposed to being my partner.
It took a number of years of watching, learning, auditing, and hands-on experience in order to accumulate, process, sort and use the knowledge I have today. Although we all use words like “training,” I like to think of my interactive experiences with horses as learning, communicating and educational for both of us.
My aim is to have my horse see me as his buddy, partner, friend and team mate, but in order to do so I must first gain his RESPECT to become important to him. Scaring, abusing or forcing him to like and tolerate my presence will never create a trusting relationship.
Most owners who send me their horse tell me that their horse has only one or two problems or that the horse is “really good most of the time.” What people do not connect is that most “issues” or areas of concern with horses are not the actual problems but signs of something much deeper and bigger. Every horse is as individual as his past, his experiences and so on. I cannot ever guarantee that I can always achieve the owner’s or my desired goals for their horse. I try to take a horse from where he is and encourage him to do what I ask by using his own free will to create a happy and positive experience.
Most major problems seem to stem from a lack of confidence and RESPECT in both the owner and the horse. The horse instinctively protects himself by ignoring the owner and “takes over” the decision making process. When horses do this, they usually don’t make the same decisions as a human would because of their instinct to protect themselves. Their best defense and self preservation mechanism is to RUN! Whether it is forward, sideways or backwards, if the horse is in control and feels threatened, he will move in the direction of his choice. We hear comments as: “he bolted and I fell off”, “he pulls back when tied”, “he runs over the top of me when he is nervous”, “he acts like I’m not here and ignores me”…
Even in the case where an owner is in conversation or is not giving their horse 100% attention, the horse will take control. The horse will behave as a child: he interrupts by nudging, he fidgets, he finds things to put in his mouth, he’s generally annoying! The horse has not been clearly shown the meaning of RESPECT!
Take a look at TEC’s Charm School to find out what Sam Harvey and her staff can do for you and your horse!