Are you creating relaxation or tension?
I seem to be getting called out to more & more clients experiencing some kind of “difficulty” with their horses, when I get there I see all kinds of tension between horse and rider/handler, physical, mental and emotional ending up with horses and owners feeding off each other.
Its not only important to try and find the cause of the problem but to try and create a relaxed environment for our horses and ourselves to learn in. Physical tensions causes mental and emotional tensions and vice versa, if we create and repeat emotional stress in the horse in time turn will into physical issues and tension in the body. Through too much “desensitising” and flooding ( you can have a desensitised tense horse!) the horse often learns to shut down emotionally, which if not addressed can sometimes end up with the horse blowing up or exploding for no apparent reason and therefore creating fear/anger/anxiety in us and then the cycle begins again.
In the horse world we have been taught to put more pressure on when the horse is misbehaving.The “Dont let him/her get away with this or that” attitude isn't always helpful??- your horse doesn't know what a fight is until you take a fight to him/her. Everything you do with the horse you are teaching him/her something! If you create tense patterns in the horse, quite often just making him move his feet isn't going to create relaxation - you’re just going to create tense patterns and that tension will be carried on through other areas of training.
When we go to our horses we need to be mindful of how we speak, react and think. Your horse doesn't care what you're having for dinner, what you did yesterday, what you’re going to do tomorrow or what shoes you're going to wear for your next evening out. All he/she cares about is how you make him feel - here and now, in this moment. Interestingly when I hear people saying “my horse does this/ he bucked “me” off, he reared with “me” today, he refuses to go forward” etc etc we need to observe how that makes US “feel” because that is what the horse feels - he/she doesn't feel the words he/she feels the emotions the words create in you.
To change our relationship with our horse we must first and obviously rule out genuine physical pain or injury, just like us, your horse cannot think if he/she’s in pain.
Next we need to try and calm our mind from internal chatter, it doesn't matter what other people think or how fast you re going or not going, all that matters is the silent conversation between you and your horse. Can you create calm and quiet in yourself, so your horse can find relaxation and leadership in you.
You might be surprised just how much more your horse will give you when you change one little thing in yourself to create relaxation instead of tension!