Our conversation with horses is through body language and energy, rather than through the words that dominate human interchange. Since body language and energy play a major role in our horse interaction, we must learn the art of a new type of communication. In order for our body to be a relaxed and supple communicator, it must be in balance with our mind. Only then can can it offer us the highly refined interaction necessary for the quick, effective conversation we need and desire with our horses.
Our philosophy sets the tone for all forms of communications. The more we can believe in a positive attitude, unconditional love, and free flowing energy, the more likely it is that out interactions will have a positive outcome. Determining your personal philosophy and purpose in life paves the way for the most effective communication.
Whether communicating with horse or man, all interactions have a three-part cycle. These three steps are clear and concise; question, answer and acknowledgement. For humans; ” How are you?” “I am doing well.” “That’s good to hear.” And that’s the three-part cycle for human interactions. For horses the three-part cycle is a little more subtle; close your legs, then close your hands (question), horse stops (answer), you soften (acknowledgement). Each of these is a complete part of the communication cycle, and an incomplete cycle opens the door for confusion.
I still remember when I was learning to ride my corners with my young, very green thoroughbred, Chance, and the importance of this concept. If I forgot to release my leg after Chance responded, he would speed up or pin his ears back. If I forgot to release my hand, he would get harder and harder against my hand. If I held in my seat, Chance would get more and more resistant. All these evasions were a result of Chance’s effort to do what he thought I was asking of him. It took several months to uncover all the different confusions that I was creating because I did not understand the communication formula.
Every aspect of our life is influenced by communication. Intimate disclosures, ones that require us to express what we really feel, are frightening. They frighten us because we are not certain if what we are feeling is acceptable or correct. Our feelings may not match what we think is expected. Riding requires intimate communication. I think it is easier to learn this type of conversation with a horse because a horse is non-threatening, responds without preconceived notions, and is non-judgmental. Intimate communications do not begin until we have learned the fundamental skills of riding. Position, control, and relaxation must become second nature to us, before we can begin to concentrate on communication. The first part of your riding journey encompasses learning position and basic control. While learning these skills you begin by using your hands, legs, and seat to control your horse safely. Initially, your communication is limited to stop, go, and turn. Ultimately, however, control is through feel, so a rider must be comfortable, confident, and relaxed on the horse. A stiff rider inhibits his horse’s ability to respond, and is deaf to the responses of the horse. As a rider gains experience, these basic fundamental skills will become more refined, creating a solid foundation for more intimate communication.
The relaxation required for basic control of your horse, means that you are comfortable and balanced in your position. Once you decide to specialize in a particular riding discipline, your communication skills will be developed to meet the requirements of the discipline of your choice. Whatever horse sport you choose, relaxation is a perquisite that allows balance, both with yourself and your horse. Becoming more deeply relaxed allows the muscles to supple, the energy to flow, and the body to move more freely. If you do not feel you are getting the results you want with your horses, you might want to look at your ability to relax both mentally and physically.