Learning to communicate with your horse is similar to learning a foreign language. Although, you cannot communicate in a language until you have learned the fundamentals of grammar, vocabulary and syntax, you need to hear the language spoken many times to get a feel for its cadence and flow. Likewise, in riding you need to learn how to use your hands and legs effectively to give the aids. You also need to learn the feel of the horse when he is straight, balanced, and rhythmical. Relaxation enhances your ability to empathize with the horse, and strengthens your ability to feel what you are seeing. This makes the language easier to learn.
While we have learned how to communicate with our aids, practice our balanced seat and relax our body, we must make a commitment to take the risks involved with asking our horse to do exactly what we want, with the expectation that he will listen. The risk of a communication breakdown always exists, we must bravely declare our will despite the possible problems. No risk, no gain. Your horse will quickly let you know if he understands you or not. If not, you can continue to ask, as often as necessary, until he shows you that he understands through a correct response. This risk-taking with a horse is much safer than it is with people.
Miscommunication with a horse is immediately recognizable, because we do not get the outcome we expect. When this happens, we should pause for a moment and try again. If too many retries are necessary, we should walk and review what is happening. Somehow we are not getting the message through to our horse. Re-evaluate what and how you are asking making sure your horse understands what you want.
Misunderstandings, whether with a horse or man, are the root of most problems. Each of us has an obligation to try to avoid failures in communication. The first step is to believe that we do not want to cause harm or discomfort to another being. The second step is to be observant to the response of our communication: we must notice the reactions of our partner. If we notice any reaction other than the one we intended, we must change the way we phrase our question until we are certain that the other party understands what our statement or question means. We can never assume that the other party understands our meaning, we must always closely observe his reaction. We do this automatically while on our horse. Horses demand an immediate response or they do not know what to do. People do not have this need. It is important to remember that, whether you are dealing with a horse or human, unsatisfactory communications that remain unresolved do not go away. The longer they remain, the more negative energy they accumulate. What began as simple misunderstanding can become a resentment, grudge, hostility, or even aggression. Therefore, it is important to resolve ill feelings as soon as possible.
Something I have learned over the years being in the saddle, as well as on the ground teaching, is to communicated with my instructor. Especially when I was younger, I was afraid to express my concerns, frustrations and especially my fears. Once I started communicating with my instructor about my feelings, problems I was having outside of my lesson and as well as my fears we discovered (together) solutions easier and my problems were solved much more quickly. Since, instructors are not mind readers, they make decisions based on what they see. Once I started teaching I realized that many hours of frustration could be avoided if students developed the confidence to express themselves to their instructor. Ideally, students should try to achieve a complete communication cycle with their instructor. The student asks a question, the instructor answers, and the student then acknowledges the answer. Effective communication is the essence of teaching, and it is also the fundamental process of learning.