One of the very most important things MY instructor told me when I wanted to be a professional was, “It’s all about how you set it up – if you are not clear enough in the beginning, you will know it later! The better you prepare yourself and your students, the better things will go.”
And, just as so many things do, I have found this statement to fit with my horsemanship as well (and many other areas of my life!).
So often, I can see horses that are high headed, confused, acting out (rearing, bucking, striking, etc.), afraid, or defensive… and guess what the common denominator is in all of these problems? The HUMAN!
Not to say that we don’t love our horses or that we wouldn’t do anything for them.
It’s just all in the set up.
Perhaps the person is not being as clear in his/her communication. Perhaps the horse is used to being in charge and is not sure if it agrees with the “trainer” that he/she deserves to lead. Perhaps the human is afraid, which in turn scares the horse, and the horse starts to push back in an attempt to either have a leader or become the leader.
Horses are really quite simple in their first, and most important, need. They want to feel SAFE. If you meet this need, by being a calm, confident, and thoughtful leader, the horses will immediately start to be calmer, braver, and more like partners.
The way that the human approaches the horse will immediately determine how the relationship will go. If you approach the horse with a calm demeanor and respond to anything that the horse does with no emotion, the horse will in turn relax and start to wonder what it can do to communicate in the same way. If the human comes to the horse with the attitude of making the horse a servant or dominating it, the horse will often respond in fear or dominance as it feels its survival is threatened.
In the end, each of us will want certain qualities in our horses. Some may want more obedience where others may want more exuberance (opposite of obedience, offering more effort than asked for, etc.). Some may want to develop a horse with more responsiveness and more go. Others may want the horse to slow down and be more thoughtful. Whatever you personally desire, may be perfect for you and your horses.
There are some common qualities that all horsemen should develop (Pat’s 10 Qualities of a Horseman): heart and desire, respect, impulsion, flexion, attitude, feel, timing, balance, savvy, and experience. The first four are for both the horse and the human. The rest --- well, those are up to us to develop! (To hear directly from Pat on these qualities, visit your Parelli Connect Learning Library for audios on the 10 Qualities or read the Qualities from Pat’s original book, “Natural Horsemanship”).
So what do you want from your horse? From your partner or your friend? What can you do to change your set-up so that you can have a calmer, happier, and more fulfilling relationship? I’d love to hear your comments!
I always feel so at peace after a day of riding. In the moment, I can drift away from the past and the future and simply BE - I find this state particularly soothing.
I have found that in general, my horsemanship has moved in this direction for the past few years. I now believe that having peace and calmness is the true art of horsemanship.
This goes for even the faster things that we do with our horses. I still laugh at some of my students' faces when I galloped past them on a fat little cob during a trail riding clinic in Wales --- eating an apple!
I think that single image drove home for them more strongly than anything else I taught that clinic that even with faster gaits and activities, both you and your horse can be in a total state of connection and calmness.
But how does one achieve this?
I believe it comes first through awareness - first of yourself and then of your horse's - internal and external states. Are you tight? Are you worried? Is there a good reason for this? Can I foresee any issues during my ground session or my riding and if so, can I simply avert it by being passively proactive? And can my horse check in with me and see that things are indeed okay? Can he see that I have been a patient and progressive leader for him? Can he trust that I will not be afraid or offended by what he needs to do?
Perhaps I notice more strongly now what a true partnership feels like because I know now what a false partnership feels like. I can feel the lack of attention and the lack of trust. I can feel the harmony and the moments of true oneness. I can feel the moments when my horse and I are slightly out of sync, and yet, I can also very patiently and simply refocus my energy and my intentions to bring us back to harmony quickly.
It's like a dance - you can't dance with another when you are both so intent on correcting. Like in music, you need silence between the notes. You need to separate the moments between the motions.
It is this present PRESENCE that is so important to our communication and relationship with our horses. It is when you get yourself trapped in the past or the future that your heart, your soul, and your mind get you in trouble. The horses are only in the now - with memories of certain past experiences, certainly - but no fear of something that does not exist unless it is also in the present.
It is a lesson for us all. Just as with everything, Horses Teach Humans and Humans Teach Horses.
Enjoy the dance! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
These last few months have been filled with lots of questions - lots of hurt, lots of truth being revealed in its sometimes dark completeness, lots of wondering what I truly want next, lots of debating with myself if I really know, if I really want to.
There are days that I just want to fall onto the ground and stay there. It is those times that I have had help getting back up - from friends that have proven true, from family that have proven loyalty, and from myself.
It is this last piece - myself - that I would like to honor today.
I feel like it is the day that you find yourself without a goal, without a dream, that you must ask yourself the TRUE QUESTION: If you have nothing, what do you truly want? If you have nothing, you have the whole world to dream, to look ahead.
So I have to ask myself: What do I truly want?
I am so blessed to have a pair of horses that are amazing, a dog that makes me laugh, a group of people around me to remind me every day that I am here for a reason.
And so today, like every day before this, I will get up off the ground, look ahead, and start to dream again... dream big enough for the world.
And then some.
TO MY READERS: What do you dream? If you have the world, what is your greatest desire? What do you do to pick yourself up when you are down? I look forward to hearing from you!
Patience - silence - indecision - a feeling of being lost - directionless - empty.
It's a place between worlds, between what was and what will be. A place of loss of expectation and of wanting something my way. A time of blankness rather than confusion.
Maybe it feels sad - it can, of course. Or perhaps it can feel bleak. Meaningless.
But then I wake to a new dawn and can see another day of beauty. It's the small moments - the puff of a horse's breathe, the twitch f a tree branch, the quiet of the day just as the snow starts to fall heavy and slow.
The moments are counted in heartbeats.
And maybe that is the place where we can finally begin.
Begin to start the journey again. To count the breaths in the day rather than the success of the greater whole. To appreciate the smallest try rather than the goal. To live in the now rather than the past or the future.
I hope that you can join me here - in the silence of the moment, in the stillness between the notes. The perfection of the present will bring the amazement of the future.
TO MY READERS:
Have you lived here as well? How did you bring joy to this moment rather than sorrow? How do you smile - when all you feel is emptiness? How much fuller is life when you live in each of its moments?
I look forward to hearing from you. Blessings,
Mattie Cowherd loves sharing her passion for horses, nature, and learning. Join her for some fun thoughts and adventures. Mattie loves writing, teaching, horse care, and --- well --- horses!