Everything You Do Matters With Horses
By Tina Hammond
As most horse owners know there is no downtime with horses in your life. Every moment spent with a horse you are teaching him something. Good or bad. It’s your choice. So best be vigilant.
The way you speak, touch, tell and feel your horse in the saddle or from the ground all adds up to a hefty equation of input for this noble creature of flight. Horses can and do sense your every emotion and that is why it is so important to monitor yourself and learn the best ways to interact.
Folks talk about talking to horses in their language and that is a smart enough sentiment and it’s very beneficial to learn. The horse has the ability to also learn our language too. It might be our movement, our energy, our breathing (and hence our energy also), our tone of voice and combinations of many factors.
Horses do have tantrums and moments of frustration and worry just the same as we do. No, it’s not just chestnuts. It’s all of them. Just like us some are bothered by stress more than others. Not just mares have moods, all horses have moods. Happy, sad, annoyed, the whole spectrum.
This is why it is so important that as a horse owner, rider or not, there is never any partial engagement. People spout on about mindfulness in all walks of life and sports is one of them. It’s true. It is so very, very important to be present in every moment when you are with a horse.
When you lose focus with your horse you will know it. It may cause an accident, it may cause a training blip, it may cause an inconsistency in understanding an aid that you’ll have to fix later.
Here are some pointers on now to develop your relationship with your equine partner:
If you do something like bridling your horse the same way every time, he will know what to expect. If you change up the way you do it that’s O.K., but you should establish one method first to avoid undue stress or nervousness or lack of understanding of what’s coming from the horse.
Don’t Go To The Stables Angry
Your horse can be a repository for comfort if you are upset, but he is not to be burdened with your temper. Exercise can certainly mitigate anger, but try calming down before you enter his space. Never punish a horse in anger and destroy the trust you are building with an outburst.
Quality Time More Important Than Quantity
Horse owners don’t have every minute of the day to spend with the horse. As an A-circuit professional SJ groom on the international tour I perhaps have spent more time in the day than most with a particular horse. Sometimes day in and out for weeks on end. That’s not normal for most people. If you have limited time to spend just make sure it’s quality time. Do something with your horse to bond and train at the same time. Ride, lunge, groom, graze your horse on a headcollar. Do something one on one. Don’t spend your barn time chatterboxing with everyone, spend the time teaching him something or exploring new ways to communicate such as massage etc.
Impress Only Your Horse
The worst reason for horse ownership is to show off. Who cares what so and so thinks of your saddle, how you ride (apart from your designated trainer), or how often you can spend time with your horse or whether you trail ride or jump 3 ft fences. Impress only your horse with kindness, clear lines of communication and consistency.
Learn When To Back Off
Just like humans horses can become overwhelmed. Learn the signs and back off the activity before the horse erupts in an upset. Go back to doing what he knows, then approach the new topic again. Sometimes you will need help addressing an issue. Don’t be shy to find help if you need it. We all do. Get over it and go get it.
These pointers may all seem common sense but it is a constant source of surprise to me how many horse owners lose the plot. The horse is not a pet, he is a companion, a partner but you need to be in charge. He needs parameters for his safety and for yours and others. Don’t humanize everything he does. He’s a horse for goodness sake. Treat him with respect.