Better Relationship with Your Horse
Updated: Jul 2
A compilation of We move as One Horsemanship subscriber newsletter feature:
Each "The "Why's" regular newsletter feature explains the whys and wherefores of some element of better RELATIONSHIP-BASED HORSEMANSHIP
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WHY: is "feel" so important in horsemanship?
BECAUSE: "feel" enhances your ability to have good timing so as to create impeccable and quieter communication. Horses trust those that are fully in-the-moment and fully aware. For a prey animal in particular, awareness and timing are qualities that create trust.
On-the-ground with a lunge or lead line....it's important to feel where your horse is without necessarily looking.
In-the-saddle.....feeling your horse's body move so you gain the awareness to know when and where to (ideally) give subtle cues (communication) with precise timing
At liberty.....feeling/knowing what is going on in the environment and feeling/knowing what your horse is likely thinking
WHY: should you be in the right place emotionally before getting with your horse?
BECAUSE: your energy or emotional vibrations can be felt. Humans too can feel when someone comes into a room with negative energies; for horses it's even more evident as they're much more sensitive and in-tune with their surroundings. To have your horse want to be with you and perform with you, it's important that you manage your feelings and thoughts. Practices like meditation and yoga can help.
Consider this quote in the NYT Best Seller, The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto: “Human beings are also vibrating, and each individual vibrates at a unique frequency. Each one of us has the sensory skills necessary to
feel the vibrations of others. A person experiencing great sadness will emit a sadness frequency, and someone who is always joyful and living life fully will emit a corresponding frequency. A person who loves others will send out a frequency of love, but from a person who acts out evil will come a dark and evil frequency.”
Try to think about how your horse might feel when in your presence and when you ask something of him/her?
WHY: Allow for much more time than you think necessary to teach your horse something?
BECAUSE: each horse (just like each human) is different. Each has different coping mechanisms as well as needing varying amounts of time to process and learn. Also, we need to allow time to help our horses manage their emotions to feel successful.
WHY: Honor the horse's worries, concerns, and fears while also not creating concerns and fears.
BECAUSE: ".....the most important factor—(is) that the human/(rider) recognize the horse’s need for self-preservation in mind, body, and spirit,” - Tom Dorrance
Why is it important to be fit and flexible to ride a horse?
(FYI: I edited this a bit as it 's nearly two years later into my own learning/journey 😉 from the original writing of this article)
your horse needs to be free to move underneath you without obstruction; it's critical to have the flexibility and strength to move WITH your horse.
it's essential to be able to support your horse to help him/her find better balance and flexibility, all while carrying a you as the rider.
you should have the physical ability to give subtle requests throughout your whole body while still maintaining an independent seat.
being strong and flexible in order to employ healthy rider biomechanics will help you stay ...on your horse!
This healthy rider biomechanics* concept can be proven ..... by setting yourself up in the correct position in the saddle (i.e. neutral spine, eyes up, thumbs up, toes not pointing out ... by pulling your "saddlebags out" (you'll need to take a lesson to find out what that means 😆), etc. Then have someone try to pull you off; you'll discover that you are very strong, stable, and secure when in the right position. Next, change one thing and you'll find that you can easily can pulled off.
*Colleen B. Kelly Rider Biomechanics
For anyone who wants a strong relationship with their horse and honors their horse enough to want their horse to be comfortable, there are exercise programs out there specifically tailored to horseback riding with a focus on core strength, overall body strength and flexibility.
This a program that I highly recommend that I have used over the years which requires a minimal time commitment (just 20 minutes a day/3 times a week): Dressage Rider Training (DRT). DRT brought about significant positive changes in my body: . Also, DRT is NOT just for dressage riders. It's for Western and English riders of all disciplines as well as those who love to just ride the trails..
Why does 24/7 free access to forage (slow hay feeders or pasture) contribute to a horse's health and well-being.
Because horses are forage eaters, naturally grazing for upwards of 18 to 20 hours each day, traveling considerable distances as they graze. Horses are not designed to eat meals (they have no gall bladder to store bile for their next meal).
Health issues from lack of forage: Colic, ulcers, dental issues, anxiety (which will show up in your training), Jane and Stuart (founders of the Equicentral System) are convinced that most domestic horses have developed man-made “eating disorders.’”
—Suzanne Rogers, Equine Behaviour in Mind
Horses are ‘pre-programmed’ to eat when food is plentiful, to put on weight to survive winter or the next drought. However, if you restrict a horse’s diet, his body tells him that there must be a food shortage and therefore he must eat as much as is available. Not letting this “starvation mode” behavior become the norm vastly improves the health (and well-being) of your horse.
Using (small-mesh) slow feeders help reduce all of these problems as they provide a more natural way for horses to consume hay. And, an added bonus: there's less hay waste ... you'll save both time and money!
Why might it be a good idea to be aware of .... and sometimes honor when your horse says "no"?
Because it will help build a more successful relationship. Things can't always be OUR (the human's) WAY. The horse needs to have a voice. You'd be surprised how much horses change when they realize they're being noticed or understood and that their concerns/needs are valued.
Paying attention to your horse's "no" may mean just: 1) slowing everything down, 2) checking on your communication clarity and whether something might not be clear, 3) taking much more time to "wait" for a response, OR possibly..... 3) needing to change your entire plan of what you wanted in that moment and consider doing something else entirely that might be more amenable to your horse in that moment (or day).
As an example, yesterday (BTW: this was written 4/21), I was planning to trailer to some trails My goal was to go for a short time and really focus on GiGi's relaxation. Before leaving, it became very clear that GiGi was trying to tell me "no" about going somewhere. While she was communicating "no", I began asking her to move at liberty around the property, initially with the intention of seeing if she would acquiesce. For me, it was hard to consider not trailering as I was already hooked up and loaded (saddle, helmet, etc). GiGi then gave me the best liberty session ever!!! I realized that if I insisted on trailering, I may destroy all the good-will that she just gave me. So we didn't go....and we just did a little more fun stuff at liberty.
Can't even begin to describe how that paid off It's hard to honor a "no" but you will be amazed at what your horse may offer you the next time you are with him or her!
(FYI: I edited this a bit as it 's now 2 1/2 years later into my own learning/journey 😉 from the original writing of this article)
Why is it generally appropriate to honor your horse's thresholds by waiting and modeling an energy vibration appropriate for that particular horse and situation?
Because it will help your horse down regulate and go from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic one which gets them back to their normal set point.....thereby able to process and over time, become less sensitive to that particular stimuli or situation. *taken from Evidence Based Horsemanship by Dr. Stephen Peters & Martin Black
The next few "The Why's" features were created back in 2020 when We move as One Horsemanship was
We move as One Natural Horsemanship.
This one was from October 2020. Since then, I've avoided the word "leader" in favor of "guardian" or at least with the qualification: "benevolent" (leader). I believe the word, "leader" is misunderstood and quite often doesn't bring out the best in people when interacting with their horses.
The following "The Why's" is true and applicable today 😊
This next one was created in May 2020. Some slight edits here, to better reflect my horsemanship journey 😊
REALLY HAPPY with this one that was created April 2020....even more than 3 years later ❤️ Although, I did forget the actual "Why" question 😆🤭🤣
So, here's one: WHY start very small and quiet when making requests with your horse?