Communicating with a horse is like a courtship. Try treating a horse like you would like to be courted, and then your horse will show you how he would like to be approached, this way you will discover a working partnership from a co-creative evolution that will grow into an amazing cross species bond built on love, affection, parenting and respect. Know that trial and error will, usually, have a positive result, because your heart is in the right place.
There as been several people a bit confused in how to communicate the fifth Ritual Eye Contact with their horse.
It is quite easy to put it into practice.
I thought I would break it down for those of you that would like more information.
What you are wanting to do is to develop your horse to have a habit of keeping an eye on you, not as a horse would on a predator but like you would do with a friend at a gathering of many people, where if you did not keep and eye on each other you could get separated.
The way you approach this ritual is the same way lead horses teach the younger ones to stay alert to knowing were the lead horses are.
I have found the best approach for training a horse is to train them in the same way horses train horses to help keep the unity of the herd and how they go about developing their courtships. Approaching your horse in this manner he will learn very quickly. This Ritual will help to prepare him for other training methods by developing his ability to relate to humans.
Practicing the fifth Ritual Eye Contact with your horse, you will develop him to keep an eye on you so you can direct him at liberty, and he will not miss your signals.
The first goal in the Eye Contact Ritual is to get your horse’s eye to track you when you begin to circle around to his backend to move him off his food. You wait until your horse is not looking at you to start your circle. At some point as you are slowly circling around to he back end he will look in you direction, when he does, return to your original spot faster than you departed, so he can see that when he decided to look, he stopped your advances.
When you feel your horse has returned to his original composure and relaxation you start again with the same pattern of circling around him when he is not looking at you. In a short time, your horse will figure out that he is controlling your ability to move him off his food by keeping a eye on you. When your horse understands his power to control your advances, he will enjoy this ability and increase his desire to stay focused on you. You, in return, develop a strong line of communication with him from his growing ability to stay focused on you.
The next stage of Eye Contact Ritual, when you circle around you horse to move him off his food, you continue to move around him until he or she will turn his neck to keep and eye on you. You do this by getting around to his back end, and he must bend his neck to see where you went. You no longer accept just the eyes tracking you, now you want the neck to bend in your direction.
After the horse learns this, you then take it to the next stage, where the horse will shift his hindquarters to keep and eye on you. Instead of coming right back to the front of your horse you keep circling to his rear until you get your horse too shift his hindquarters, it is very helpful to use a cluck at this time. When the horse learns when to look and when to bend his head, or shift his hindquarters, he becomes more confident and you will have light aids when you ask for a pirouette on the forehand.
Tip: When you get to the last stage of the ritual, alternate between keeping an eye on your horse’s eye and on his hindquarters as a way to influence your horse’s movements.
Any time I look at the hindquarters of a horse and cluck my horse will make a turn in my direction and shift his hindquarters away. This replaces a need to touch your horse to get him to shift his hindquarters. You will not have any reason to use more pressure and stronger aids to get your horse to respond to stepping sideways.
The right energy, intention and approach is the key to a horse’s ability to respond the way we would like him to. What has worked for me over the years is to communicate what I want the horse to do and then wait for a response. Any response at all is rewarded. I then wait until the horse is comfortable standing quietly for as long as I like. When I know that he will, then I can move on to asking for something new, or to repeat. I keep my communication simple and short, and ask myself, before I ask my horse for anything, what are the chances that my horse is going to respond the way I would like. Any request I make to the horse should only take place in the moment my horse feels relaxed and willing. I try to stay away from asking for things that would be a challenge for him. What does not challenge a horse in one moment might do so in the next and I must be aware of his attitude changes.
In the moments I have a connection and his willingness I can communicate quite softly or even strongly. How strong of an aid I choose is determined by what will bring me the best result. I imagine what would happen using a stronger or softer aid and then, when I have an idea of what would be best, I try it. In most cases, not all cases, it is better to error on not being strong enough with my aid. But, you can only error on not being strong enough one or two times at the most, three times will desensitize a horse to listening to you. Do not be afraid of being too strong with an aid once you have been too soft. If you are apologetic with your aids it will bring about assertive behavior in a horse.
Some times it is a very good thing you error on the side of too strong, if you have tried softly at first, because a horse knows why you got too strong from not listening to you the first two times, feels a bit guilty, and then he will make it up to you. Error can bring your relationship to a deeper connection if you take the time to win your horse back to a deeper bond. I have actually been too strong with horses and humans to break through some kind of armor that stands in the way of developing a deeper trust and friendship. The need to make up can open the door to a growing understanding and connection. Just don’t over do it by being too strong as a habit, let your errors be the reason you are too strong. Horses like you to admit a mistaken harshness with affection, a pause and allowing time to reconnect. We want a loyal marriage with a horse. Intentions and caring for the other is essential. Your horse needs to care for you and you need to care for your horse.
Have a great weekend and may the new horse and human sightings be plenty!