I have never before realized how much our minds speak and control even though we can neither hear them nor see them on the outside. I have never before realized how big a difference it makes to our horses and how much they sense our thoughts. Yet I have had some eye-opening experiences lately with myself as well as with other people and their horses. I would like to share with you a little bit of what I have learned, seen and changed only by focusing on the rider instead of the horse…
These past few days I have had some exceptionally outstanding sessions with a few of my students. One whom I have known for a long time and the other one during our first meeting. In both cases we worked very differently from what a training session most often look like since we were not at any point training the horses, but the person instead. A way of approaching the sessions that I have really grown to love and appreciate more than any other way of teaching!
The first task they were both given was to walk side by side with their horses. Starting from a halt and then get into a walk without pushing, pulling or demanding. In order to make this work it takes a lot of calmness and presence from the person who wish for these first steps to be taken together. Most importantly of all it demands of the person to have power over his own mind. Without being aware of disruptive thoughts the whole task is very likely to end up without a real feeling of success. That is also how we started out in the two sessions I am now referring to – that we talked about what should happen, but instead of it actually happening, nothing happened. They just stood still.
“You can get the feeling of moving together. You can see it happen in front of your inner eye. You can prepare your body and open for the possibility of moving together, but you can never expect it to happen right away” I said to one of my students when she stood beside her horse and I started to see the frustration growing inside her. She took an even deeper breath and lowered her shoulders that had tightened up due to her growing wish of the movement to occur in the horse. All of a sudden the horse actually started moving by her side and she quietly followed. After a few steps he stopped again and it was clear that she did not know how to respond – everything had just worked so well and now it suddenly did not work again.
“Even though you succeed in walking together you need to actually believe that you can both keep on walking together. If you walk around with him constantly being afraid that he might stop then it is completely sure that he WILL stop! Instead you need to have faith that he will walk with you and if he stops then just breathe once again even deeper and ask once more.” As soon as I stopped talking he immediately invited her to move on again. At some point he almost stopped, but I saw her breathe as she had been told and she smiled to him – he started walking again without the slightest doubt. He even looked more satisfied than previously!
It is so important to be aware of what and how you think. Especially considering expectations. And why so you might wonder? Because as soon as you start to expect specific things to happen you start tensing up and stop breathing. That be something you wish to happen or something you fear could happen. Sadly it often seems to work the opposite way around of what we wish for. If you really want something to happen right now then it most likely won’t happen. If you on the other hand fear that something could happen then it most likely will. Therefore you should always be very aware of what is going on in your mind because it in every case will affect your body and thereby also your horse!
“By never expecting what should happen you can only be pleasantly surprised.”
In training our horses we should always start out by training ourselves. In knowing ourselves and how to be aware and in control of what is going on in our minds we have already taken a huge step in the right direction. A step that will make everything in the future easier for us and the best teachers in the world to teach us about this are our horses. All they demand is that we actually listen to what they have to say to us…