Balancing guiding and listening
Everything needs a healthy balance to work in harmony. So does the relationship between horse and human that far down the road can be summed up to the balance between guiding and listening. At least from my point of view. We know from our own lives the appreciation of being listened to. We know how being listened to make us feel heard, understood and respected. At the same time most of us also know the safety and comfort from being guided. We know how being guided allows us to let go of control and worries in favor of simply being taken by the hand and helped through whatever stands in front of us. It is the same thing with our horses and that is why it is of such big importance to balance the two aspects of your togetherness with your horse.
One of the things I put most weight on when I am with horses is to try and listen to them. I try to sense what they would like to do, ask them where they would like to go and so on. I wish to make sure that they know I will not try to take their voice away simply because I do in fact have the power to do so, but that I will actually do my best to let them be who they are. Yet I also allow myself to be the guide once in a while. The same way they wish for me to listen to them I can ask the other way around. Sometimes I feel the need to take the role as a guide when I know that we have to do something special and other times I can see that either one of my horses are actually not sure themselves what they want.
Some horses are more determined, creative and independent than others. Some are really good at coming up with ideas and to always know what they want to do while others see an ocean full of fish and doesn’t know which one to go after. With the first type of horses you can always be sure that even if you don’t take the role as a guide, you will still be doing something that day. Your horse will make sure of that by brining in all his great ideas. It is more difficult with the second type of horses as they will be blown away by being given all the opportunities and then have to make something out of it themselves. Horses like that tend to see this ocean full of fish and instead of picking out one of them to hunt, they will just pull back and avoid going after any of them because they can’t decide for the one they want most. There will be too many fish to pick from.
With such horses it can be a huge relief for them to be taken by the hand and guided into one specific task in which they can then shine and be confident because they feel safe in the ocean with only one single fish to hunt. That removes the possibilities and the responsibility from their shoulders and allow them to relax in the task instead of becoming stressed or shut down due to confusion from choices. Not said that they should never be given the freedom to have all possibilities open, but simply emphasising that it can also be a favor to your horse to guide him sometimes if he is one of those who has a hard time managing and choosing whatever he wishes to do.
The point of my story is that it can never be put up as black and white as one might seem to think. It is not that “you are the leader who is in charge” nor “you should always let your horse decide everything and not demand anything from him”. That is simply not how I see it as that would not in any way mean to balance the relationship. Listening to your horse and allowing him to be who he is doesn’t mean that you can never ask him for anything, put up a few guidelines or invite him into something YOU want to do. It means that you are both in this relationship expecting to be heard and seen, but also with confidence in the fact that sometimes I can do something for you and sometimes you can do something for me. That is how I see a healthy relationship based on mutual respect and a balance between listening to each other and taking the role as the guide.