Connect With Your Horse - Part 2
The Goal: Energetic compatibility between you and your horse
Close your eyes picture yourself in the perfect relationship with a loving partner. You know you are loved and you feel the warmth of that emotion daily.
Now, imagine yourself in the opposite kind of relationship where you are not a partner, you have no say in any part of your world. You can’t choose what or when to eat, or have a say regarding your living quarters, who your friends are, what your job is, what hours you work, sleep or socialize. If you even get to socialize.
People tell you that you are loved. But you don’t feel loved. You don’t feel warm and cared for. Punishment is your reward for not performing and may be in verbal, physical or emotional form. You feel used and alone. You wish you could change it, but if you express yourself in a way considered disrespectful, you will be reprimanded and made to move around and your fear grows. So you learn to stay silent, endure the time spent with your oppressor and hope it ends soon. You are taught to comply at the expense of your own feelings and desires.
Eventually, you are sold, and you find yourself in a new place, also not of your choosing, and you must learn to exist in this new relationship with new rules and new foods and no friends you recognize.
Doesn’t feel like a fun life, does it? Yet, this is the life of so many horses. Let’s make it better for all of them and ourselves as well, shall we, because after all, if you have the horse you want, you’ll keep him and that stability alone will better his life as well as yours. But how do you connect with your horse and become the team you envision?
Instead of a list of do’s and don’t’s as to how to better your connection with your horse so you get the relationship you want, let’s talk about energy. Ours, theirs, the combination of the two and why it matters.
The energy exchange—the way your horse feels when you interact with him and how you feel in these same situations. Testing this is easy, you only need be aware of your own emotions and simultaneously, be able to read your horse’s.
Side note: People are told that allowing a horse to see your fear will trigger him into a heightened state of awareness and ultimately cause you harm. This makes the horse sound like an unpredictable bad guy so people try to hide their emotions, but doing so and trying to fake it is just as difficult for a horse to understand.
Horses are honest. They don’t fake anything and if you are tune with that, you’ll see how he feels in all situations and what his reaction is likely to be. And you can help him to respond as you’d like. The trick is learning how to manipulate the energy before, during and after every emotional swing.
This isn’t about not showing emotion or showing emotion though and is instead, learning how to be authentic, honest and real in each encounter with your horse. The energy is palpable to some humans and all horses. And, this is what is happening at all times; when we are present and when we are not.
Horses are not a primarily verbal species. Sure, they vocalize, but most of their communication pathways are not verbal. Body language plays a huge part in how they tell each other about danger, and their physical reactions to any energy is how they communicate immediately. This includes their own energy shooting to a high and fearful level as needed to relay that danger is near. For example; picture a grazing herd when something suddenly scares them or even only one of them. The first horse to notice something is amiss doesn’t shout out, “Run!” Instead, he raises his head and tails, then tenses his body, ready for flight. The horse doesn’t need to sMake any noise since each herd member is already tuned in to each other.
This physical tension is what they see from each other, but what they feel, like a current connecting each of them, is energy shifting and escalating, thus warning each horse in the herd without a noise being made. In this way, the predator (if there is one) can’t hear them, and the horses have a chance at getting away safely.
With or without a danger being present, there is an energy exchange; a give and take that happens amongst horses and it also happens between horses and humans each and every time we are aware of each other in any situation. And this is the number one thing to remember to track in ourselves any time we are approaching our horses, whether they are new to us or old friends. Below is an exercise to help increase your ability to read your horse’s energy.
15 Minute Exercise to better learn your horse and his reaction to you:
Be in a relaxed and calm frame of mind.
Take your horse to a hay net or a grazing area, turn him loose.
Step back, stand perpendicular to your horse—shoulder to him, not facing him.
Observe your emotions, are you calm? Breathing softly? Heart rate normal?
And your horse, does he eat frantically or calmly?
Is he tense? Any wrinkles around his chin? Rolling his eyes? Swiveling his ears?
Is he calm? One foot resting, soft eye, no pinned ears.
If calm, step toward him, you may talk to him at this point. Does he remain calm?
If he tenses, braces or pins ears, step back immediately.
- Repeat daily until he’s calm with anything you do while he’s eating for 15 minutes.
What you’ll accomplish by doing this short exercise is quite valuable for both of you. It puts each of you in the present. The horse learns that sometimes you don’t want anything but to be with him and you learn to interpret the slightest change in his mood, tension or calmness. If he remained calm throughout the first session, practice reading his energy while he is in a herd, walking next to you, while working in hand, and while riding.
Building trust through consistent interactions, predictability and our own calm and aware presence is critical if we want to build a relationship with our horse. Controlling those spikes in angst that plague us at the drop of a hat is just as critical, and we’ll go over exercises to help with that in another post.
Keep riding, Happily Ever After!
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Part 1 of this article is available here: https://www.horseclicks.com/community/advice/general-equestrian/connect-with-your-horse
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