Have you noticed that just by changing your thoughts
around a horse they pick up on it? Have you noticed that just
by thinking your horse gets what you are intending? Horses are
very intuitive creatures and hear us in many ways. We depend a
great deal on the spoken word but it's only one of our tools to
train horses. They listen to us through body language, movement,
sound, smell, sight, feel and intention.
The human partner's (owner/handler) responsibility
inside the human/horse relationship has a great deal to do with
communication and learning process. Many times I come across horses
that are considered having "behavior problems" when there was
a lack of communication, understanding and intentions between
the human partner and the horse.
It is my intention as a trainer and instructor
to leave the human/horse partnership enabled to be safe, comfortable
and happy together when I am not around. Ultimately, the partnership
needs me to guide them less and less over time. I have seen many
training situations where the owner/rider becomes more and more
dependent on the trainer to create the perfect horse for the rider
to simply "sit" on and look good. Once the lesson or show is over,
then the trainer takes over again before the next public appearance.
To me this is not creating a foundation for the horse and rider
to bond deeply and go through life's experiences together and
build trust and confidence in each other over time.
My role as an instructor is similar to a Driver's
Ed. teacher. As the Driver's Ed. Instructor introduces a person
to a car and driving, it is my job to introduce the student to
every aspect of the horse and rider partnership including grooming,
healthcare, saddle fit, ground work, body work, and working under
saddle. Sitting beside them as they take the wheel and guiding
them through every process and occasionally taking the wheel myself,
I share and demonstrate for them to see how it can work.
I also know that when I teach, I try and give the
student a sense of awareness about their internal language, intuition
and intention with their horse. Horses know when we refer to them
as "Alpo" or "Dumb blood" or "Stupid" and can feel the intention
behind those words. (I met a cowpony whose name was the N word
and it broke my heart). Usually we are frustrated, angry, out
of patience, confused or we just want to make ourselves feel superior
when we start calling horse's names. I realize some people think
it's just funny to call their horse a derogatory name but I believe
they know when we are demeaning them and treating them as if they
cannot hear, "behind their back" so to speak.
I use the words "Unacceptable" or "that is not
fair" or "come on, let's work together here" when I get upset
with a horse for any reason. Then I will take a deep breath, take
a break, try something else and when the horse gives me an indication
of trying or is just unable to get it, I say "thank you" and we
Can you imagine if your Driver's Ed. Teacher or
the policeperson that taught you to drive started calling you
names when you were learning how to merge into traffic on a highway
or parallel parking on a busy city street? You can see how stress
can come just from intention.
I have added teaching intention to my students
over the years and really enjoy seeing the results. People tell
me after our lessons that not only does their horse change for
the better but they change too within the relationship.
When working with horses you must understand that
boundaries of respect need to be created. ("Respect" in my world
does not mean dominance, force, pressure or "winning".) As a trainer
you may know this, but your students need to work with it as much
as you do. I show students how to lead their horse on both sides
of his body without pulling or dragging the horse and they learn
to walk together as if they were lovers holding hands. Everywhere
I go the horse goes, I can back up, turn a circle, halt and walk
on and the horse is 100% locked into me and my intentional movements.
I teach this to the student and they begin to feel what a deep
bond is like with a horse.
They notice how the horse's eyes are focused inward
and not affected by external variables when their intention is
clear. If the horse does get distracted, then I teach the student
how to bring the horse back immediately and how to be aware of
a shift even before it happens. The student cannot be thinking
about his or her job, next appointment, phone calls, deadlines,
family commitments or anything else but the intention of being
with his or her horse within that moment. When they come to a
halt, the horse is standing on all fours squarely; only then the
student can reward the horse with her voice and stroking the head
and neck, and finally release intention and relax for a moment.
But you need to always see the horse out of the corner of your
eye even when you are standing and talking with someone else.
The horse needs to honor your space and wait there with you while
you focus on something else. Honor the horse too by not making
him wait too long or he will feel ignored, left out, neglected.
If you feel or see the horse starting to move the
student must catch it right away and ask him again to "stand"
with intention in the body and voice.
I also teach the student to do massage work, acupressure,
stretches and aromatherapy to get to know their horse fully. I
want the student to see she or he can affect the horse's personality
and bring out the best in them. Horse's love to have boundaries
and be respected for who they are while feeling safe, secure and
confidant with their partner.
I start all of this work in the stall and in the
arena with my students, then we take the horse in hand and go
out looking for challenges. We travel outside the arena looking
for ditches, holes, logs, water, dark to light areas, around ponds
where geese, ducks and foul live to work with them when the birds
are startled. My horse has gotten to the point now where he is
not bothered one bit by wild geese taking flight very close to
him. I laugh at his playfulness and fearlessness that we have
With my student and her horse we work on her intention
while asking her horse to take on a challenge, to overcome fear,
to listen to her while the horse is questioning. We do all of
this work in hand first then translate it to the saddle as we
progress. Now, when my student goes out with her horse she has
many tools to keep her and her horse safe. They can enjoy their
rides together and continue to do whatever they want to do together.
Whether it be enjoying weekend trail rides or competing at horse
shows. The foundation has been set, the intentions are clear and
the partnership can flourish.
Try it with your horse. Place a halter and lead
rope (no chains please) on your horse and go into an arena or
round pen. If your horse is not familiar with leading or leads
only by being dragged along, you may want to carry a dressage
whip or wand to demonstrate intention of the back end to move
Stand beside him with one hand snuggly holding
the lead up under his chin. Do not pull down or forward, simply
use the words "walk" or "walk on" with intention and lift your
knee as if you were going to take a step. If nothing happens say
the command again and gently tap the whip on his hindquarter until
he moves first. Then you move with him and reward him with your
voice. Come to a halt and try it again until he moves first with
the words "walk". He will be watching your knees and listening
to your intention every second. If he has a hard time getting
it quickly, try marching in place and lifting your knees higher
so he sees you want him to walk with you. Do this exercise on
both sides of his body as they can learn differently on each side.
Many of my students and website readers are using
The InBalance Oil with success. The holidays are coming up quickly
and you may want to consider giving it as a gift to a friend or
your horse! The InBalance Oil is purely natural made with the
highest quality of essential oils designed to calm, balance, relieve
anxiety and provide mental clarity. Just rub a tiny amount around
and inside the nostrils and you will notice a difference. I even
have a race trainer that is using it on a difficult filly and
he says it has made a big difference in her emotions which is
allowing her to relax in her work. The 2 oz. bottle lasts at least
6 months for one horse.
I appreciate all of your letters and feedback and
hope to see you at a clinic one of these days. Equine Affaire
and I are working out a schedule for the next year as well as
a few private barns. I will keep you posted on my website calendar.
I am also available for lessons if you would like to trailer in
to the Louisville, KY area. If you are not too far away I would
be happy to come to your barn also.
By the way, my horse Redge, is back to form and
training beautifully. Thanks to great veterinary care, holistic
care and his trust in me to try hard he is on his way to being
extraordinary! It feels great to have him back fully in my life.
I'll have some pictures for you on the website soon.