When you help your horse to connect with his feelings and express his sensitivity you are more likely to solve your horse riding problems and gain confidence in your relationship.
What most terrified me about riding Jack when I first bought him was his unpredictability. I’d largely had thoroughbreds and Irish horses in the past – and in the main they told me if they were frightened of something well in advance!! This gave me plenty of time to give the horse confidence and reassurance about the object of concern and to keep myself safe.
With Jack there was little and often NO warning. Warmbloods, I’ve now found out, are known for their unpredictability – and when I first had Jack he walked out from home quite happily on his own – but when he met something that unnerved him he went from seemingly calm and unphased to reactive and speeding off either forwards or sideways.
It now seems to me that he was so disconnected from his senses and feelings that it was only when his unacknowledged feelings built up and startled him that he reacted so violently. Since he hadn’t even noticed his own concern – he didn’t transmit it to me – until we stopped abruptly and span around in the road – or bolted off in another direction.
It was one of these occasions, two years ago when Jack spooked, slipped on the road and we both fell to the road on our right shoulders, resulting in shock, sore limbs and in addition a broken collar bone for me. It was this incident which fuelled my desire to start from the beginning again!!
It’s been a long and sometimes arduous journey – of self awareness and intuitive riding and training.
An animal communicator told me that Jack would teach me all I needed to know – and this has been true. The training that I’ve received during the past few years has given me the tools and techniques – but it’s Jack who has taught me how to apply them and how to balance assertiveness and sensitivity.
…a common riding problem
“Looking at emotions in my lessons has helped because it’s made me understand how the way I’m feeling affects the way my pony…”
Of course, what I now know, is that Jack was reflecting to me my own ability to disconnect from my senses and feelings!!!!
I’ve now learned how to be calm in my body, to give simple, clear, effective aids and to praise the slightest effort. I’ve learned to gain confidence in my own ideas and wisdom. This has resulted in Jack being light, responsive, expressive and calm at the same time.
As I hacked Jack out yesterday it was as if he was seeing things for the first time!
He seemed alive – instead of a zombie. He noticed the sheep in the fields, kids playing football in a field, engines of lawnmowers etc etc – he pricked his ears, stopped to have a look and take an interest and then calmly walked on.
I kept thinking “this is weird – he’s never been this ‘spooky’ in all the time that I’ve had him” – but then the penny dropped. He was so caught up in his trance before (dissociated from the world around him) that he just didn’t notice things. Yet his body was registering the distractions on some level because when it was too much for his system to bear – he would scoot off.
As we rode around the village I was able to treat Jack in the way that I would a 3 or 4 year old, just broken in – with time and patience – to familiarise him with these happenings and events that he’d just woken up to.
We often don’t give horses the credit they deserve for their sensitivity – we’re either too impatient to notice their response to our requests, or we’re giving them 2 or more requests at the same time and they become confused or we perceive their sensitivity as a threat to our safety – and I’ve been guilty of all of these!!
When we recognise how keen horses are to learn, how hard they try to respond to the cues that we give them and make our requests clear, calm and confident we can enjoy their sensitivity and learn to familiarise them with new situations and frightening events – rather than trying to shut down their senses.
I felt safer riding Jack yesterday than ever before. Now that he is able to express his feelings and concerns we have time to work out a solution which is safe for us both and which is leading us to a happier more trusting relationship.