It's easy to go to work when you love what you do. I am fortunate to have a job that helps bring people and horses to a mutual understanding.
This past week I had the opportunity to teach a two day On-line and Riding Foundation and a one day On-line Foundation Clinic at Discovery Ranch in Grenfell, Saskatchewan. Nancy Maurer, owner of Discovery Ranch, hosted the event and was instrumental in the clinics success.
Our first day started with a horse behaviour lecture, asking: how do horses think, and why they do what they do? We learned that there are four quadrants of behaviour and each quadrant needs it's own unique approach. When horses' hopes, dreams, and needs are considered, a more willing, trusting, and fulfilled being emerges.
Behaviour recognition, helps students see the feedback their horse gives them, and they learn about what they should do with that feedback. Our reactions make the difference in whether our horse will be willing and cooperative, or bracey, defiant, fearful and resistant.
The Leadership Role
We learned how our leadership, or lack of leadership, effects everything from leading a horse to higher level studies. Leadership can be different for each quadrant. For an introverted horse, good leadership means, having their human slow down their actions and wait for a response instead of asking and expecting and or demanding an immediate response. Giving the introvert time to think and digest what was just asked of her, helps regroup emotions and kicks in the thinking mode. The horse is then able to respond with more relaxation and the best part is they feel understood. For the extroverted horse, the left brain extrovert needs variety, plus the intention of keeping them respectful. Right brain extroverts need us to be a leader that has the confidence to lead so they are able to feel safe. It was explained, if you continue to offer the right type of leadership during a horse's foundation period, you can expect your horse to respond more like a ball room dance partner. Our goal is to bring balance and preparidness for all disciplines by virtue of fair leadership.
Students learned although leadership is paramount for a successful partnership, a language between human and horse encourages a conversation. We want our horse to ask questions. It's our job to recognize a question and then answer it. It's through having a conversation with your horse that evokes feelings of being understood and respected.
Putting Words Into Action
As each day in our clinic progressed, horses became increasingly relaxed and willing. Every student grew in the awareness of working with an approach that fit their horse's needs.
Moving forward with more on-line exercises the second day, ultimately lead us into riding the horses in the afternoon. Because everything we learn on-line, transfers into the saddle, it became apparent horses were happy to continue with learning new tasks while having their human ride them rather than be by their side. I introduced a Quadrille pattern at the walk and then trot, and a Leap Frog exercise. Both these exercises are designed to help horses feel more comfortable close to another horse, pass a horse, be the leader of the group and a follower.
The third day On-line Clinic, held many light bulb moments. It still amazes me how when a horse
realizes she's being understood, she will want to follow. There were a few horses that needed support and understanding, so we figured out what quadrant they were in, which lead us to understand what their needs were and what it was we needed to do to help them. The resistance they came with, seemed to dissolve and in it's place a horse emerged that was more willing and partner like.
My goal for every clinic is to plant a seed, and watch it sprout. Hopefully the sprout will grow into a proud flower. When we build confidence and trust through understanding the quadrants, recognize curiosity, be the leader our horse was dreaming of, and never forget to thank our horse for each step forward, we set a horse up to be increasingly responsive and light in our hands, on-line and riding, for today and tomorrow.
I want to thank Nancy Maurer, for the effort she put into organizing this clinic, Cathy Piller, who in the past has hosted clinics in Grenfell, and the students who took the time and effort to invest in themselves. And of course, a big thank you to all the horses, for without them, none of us would have met.
For those who attended my June, 2017 Horsemanship Clinic:
Listen to your heart, it knows.
Pay attention to your hands, they feel.
Listen to your horse, she talks.