Some riders are convinced that their horse has a devious plan for world domination- at their expense. Or that their horse is so lazy that any work from him will require a fight. Some riders just think their horses are stupid- and aren’t afraid to say so right out loud.
I think these are all sure signs that a horse has given up on his rider.
“She seems kind of flighty and erratic. Doesn’t have the self-respect of a yearling. I don’t trust that kind of mind in a human.”
It’s a de-evolution to get here; riding began in a much more joyous, wonder-filled place. But when affirmative work with a horse starts to go bad, a kind of passive adversity sneaks in.
Communication with the horse gives way to having an unhappy internal diatribe, focusing on what’s wrong and never rewarding what’s right. Riders grow louder with their cues or more critical of the horse’s response. Eventually we are at war, training resistance and killing try.
“Eeouw! Does this human have needles in her sit bones? What a pain in the back!”
When emotions or impatience take the place of communication- there is a domino effect of bad behavior, usually on both sides.
My favorite trainer referred this as too much blood in your eye- riding blindly for the goal instead of working the training process in the moment.
RESET: What if the horse is telling the truth? What if you are actually asking for what your horse is giving? Or is there a chance the horse is getting conflicting cues- like pulling back on a rein while asking forward with a whip?
“Forward? Back? WHAT???”
Horses get tense, confused, and resistant. Finally, most horses just shut down (by over-reacting or under-reacting.)
“Can you believe the flap this human is making? She’s so confused, poor thing, she’s just scattered. Maybe if I ignore her, she will settle…”
Humans do have limited senses to begin with, and then our intellect distracts us from using them effectively. When human brains spin thoughts like a rat on a wheel, we lose zen.
“Poor Humans. They have such limitation: senses that are hardly worth mentioning, only two legs and erratic leadership skills. How have they even survived so long with such limited ability? If not for us equines, they would certainly have perished centuries ago.”
I am continually amazed by horse’s willingness to forgive our shortcomings and give us another chance. There is resilience enough to share if we can steady our thoughts and be as responsive as we want our horse to be.
Because when horse and rider have an actual 2-way conversation, minds and bodies come together. Synchronicity! The horse relaxes into rhythm, he blows and chews, and the ride becomes effortless in a stride. It’s like the horse congratulates us (rider and trainer) for getting it right.
“But sometimes I have such hope for this species. (stretch, blow…) I know that one day they will learn to communicate. (lick, lick, chew…) I believe humans are capable of so much more than some equines think possible.”
Anna, Infinity Farm.
6 thoughts on ““I Have Such Hope for This Species.””
Ha! Funny I should be reading this now, after coming up with some similar conclusions about my own journey and process. I need to lighten up. Be LESS goal-oriented and lose the unrealistically high expectations for now. One of the things I learned as a weightlifting coach years ago is that you can get over stimulated with information and end up with Paralysis by Over-analysis. You keep taking on more and more advanced information when you’re really only capable of doing beginner or intermediate work. No wonder we get confused and frustrated, and as a horsewoman I have to think not only of my own level of experience, but my horse’s too! I think i need to put this on a sticky note and stick it on my saddle horn … 😉
“I am continually amazed by horse’s willingness to forgive our shortcomings and give us another chance. ”
This is one of the (endless) things I love about horses. One of my favorite horses I’ve ever known, a Canadian Sport mare called Desdemona, taught me that lesson in such a touching way. I was clipping her ears and accidentally nicked her. I felt awful, stroked her and apologized. Rather than pulling away when I went back to the same ear, she lowered her head and sighed, as if she were saying “I know you didn’t mean it – here, try again…” Still brings tears to my eyes with the retelling.
Your post was so timely for me. I am realizing that I haven’t been acting as the lead mare and my messages have been inconsistent. My poor boys are getting mixed messages. I need to ride with my brain in gear! Thanks for reminding me!
I love the idea of such synchronicity but I am such a nervous nelly with horses and any poor horse would only have to take one look at me to see my lack of hope. How lovely for you though to have the enjoyment of getting it right!
Confidence is a fluid thing, it comes and goes. I work with lots of timid riders, and I have been one, at times. I think working with a trainer can be a real help. If that isnt possible, remembering to take deep breaths is a miracle cure. Don’t give up, it is always possible.
Fabulous blog and really helpful. It reinforces how we MUST think of things from the horse’s perspective as well to ensure a partnership that works for both of us.