There is a time for everything…With horses, as with life, there is a time to lead, connect, direct and a time to pause. Just like on the potter’s wheel when you are at the right moment and you choose to influence the clay, things work. When we were children this seemed to be natural. So, how did we loose this ability to be in tune with life and with horses? Haven’t you noticed the natural connection a child shows around horses? Shouldn’t we know how to throw a pot because we have a natural ability to make adjustments and a natural ability to know how to work with the unknown? Shouldn’t we be comfortable working with the unknown?
How did we loose that naturalness in how to fit in and influence others to want to help us and follow our lead? What happened is that we turned into bullies. When we want something, we feel we are entitled to it. Bullies do not need to adjust to the feelings of others. Bullies even enjoy the resistance that they create. You can see that in the horse community. Bullies don’t want to consider the feelings of a horse or work around the feelings of a horse. They are interested in pushing the horse to bond. They want the horse to experience resistance to the bond and then force the horse to accept the bond. This is generally how round pen training is used.
What I see is that people have lost interest in being a student of life and they have learned how to grab what they want by persisting until they get it. I have people all over the world wanting to get certified in my method, but few that want to be a student with me and take a true journey. In my online classes we have “real” students interested in learning and we have seen real magic happen there.
Ok, I am finished with my soap box speech and moving on to information that is going to help you with your horse. What you want to be aware of when communicating with your horse is the timing of your leadership. How you get your horse to listen to you and take your direction is where the Waterhole Rituals come into play. I remember a trainer I thought was amazing, who I highly prized, and he commented to me that my gift with horses is that I ask a horse to perform at the moment he would be willing to perform. And this is what I’ve been teaching to others ever since. This ability must be present whether you are leading, training, riding, performing, or well, anything that you could do with a horse as simple as how you go about picking up a horse’s leg to clean it. There is a time to connect, a time to ask and a time to insist that gets the job done. This ability comes from knowing where your horse is emotionally and mentally - where his focus and attitude is in the moment before you would ask him to do anything and would know how to create the cooperation in your horse without fighting the resistance.
The strings of connection: Before you start with your leadership do not ask the horse to do anything until all of the strings of connection are in place. These connections are how the horse is feeling towards you emotionally, mentally and spiritually. When you understand where your horse is coming from you will make adjustments with your horse in order to get your horse into a willing state. This way your horse will naturally follow your lead. The way you find this out is by asking yourself several questions before you actually ask your horse to perform.
The questions you would ask are: (conditions of attitude) 1) Is your horse feeling the bond? 2) Do you have his trust in the moment? 3) Does he see you in a leadership position in the moment? 4) Do you have his complete focus? 5) Do you feel he is willing to accept what you are going to ask him to do?
If all of these connections are in place, then you have a magnetic connection with him and he will naturally follow your lead.
Let’s take a look at how these conditions would play in mounting a horse.
First step - is your horse willing to stand still without your assistance for at least 5 minutes? Then consider the 5 conditions of attitude are in place as you are getting on. You should be ready to get off and start over again if for any reason, while you are mounting, you lost one of these strings of connection. Working with horses your timing is everything. If your horse loses his willingness you should get off your horse and work on getting back the willingness. You might spend some time doing things where he has followed your leadership willingly on five or six leadership requests, so that he will be in a stronger mood to allow you to get on his back and not lose the magnetic connection.
Watch out for attitude changes… The Waterhole Rituals help you watch out for attitude changes in your horse and show you how to develop your horse to be in the right mind set to accept your leadership. From your practice of the Waterhole Rituals you will form a habit to maintain your horse’s attitude while you are working with him.
Let’s say you’re riding towards a fence and you notice your horse is looking across the field at something else, you would know at that moment that you need to get his attention back. You could do this in many ways – you could turn his head back to the fence and then release the rein, you could slow him down, speed him up, make a circle, you could ride him a bit stronger or actually even speak to him, you could ride on to the next fence and work on getting your horse focused on the job at hand through several gymnastic moves or you could ride fast to get your horse with more energy before asking him to take the fence. Never would there be a response to reprimand him. You replace reprimand to knowing what to do. Each horse and each moment is different.
If you are new to my method… Every moment we are with a horse we must prepare the horse to have all of these strings of connection in our hands before asking the horse to do anything. Pretty soon it will become natural for you and your horse. For anyone who is new to my method my introduction to the Waterhole Rituals video will show you how to develop these qualities of connection between you and your horse. But read my book first. It is not on horse training. It is about my childhood with horses and is meant to guide you to the right attitudes in approaching your horse as a leader in friendship. Everything that I do with a horse, all of my success that I have had training horses, I attribute to knowing when to ask a horse to follow my lead and the ability in creating a horse to want to follow my lead.
Let’s say you don’t study my method, I believe this article can make you a better horseman by becoming more aware of what kind of connection you have with your horse at the time you ask him to do anything. I can tell you this simple focus can really, really help you in simple acts. You might not have a horse that is resistant to getting into a horse trailer, resistant to stepping across a stream, resistant to leaving a group of horses, resistant to following your lead just by your attitude and approach, but then again you might.
A simple tip: When putting a horse in a trailer, the first step is getting him comfortable standing in front of the trailer and waiting until he stops fidgeting. Walk him around the trailer until he will go the speed of your walk. Test him at a slow walk then a fast walk. Stand him in front of the trailer again and at the moment he looks inside the trailer and appears to be totally relaxed, ask him to take a few steps. Then when he is relaxed ask him for a few more steps. Once he gives you a few steps, ask him to halt and then back him up and start all over again. Once in a while you go get him a treat from the trailer. If in an hour’s time he does not volunteer to go in, what you need to do is on the days that you do not want him to get into a trailer, take some real time in training him to feel safe with you and the trailer and that he has a good attitude about it. And that is all there is about trailer loading.
The only other aspect of what causes a horse to sometimes be afraid of getting into a trailer is that they don’t like to back out. What I do in this case is I let a horse take a few steps into a trailer and then I ask him to back out. As you practice backing out, before going all the way in, there will be a time that the horse will take the initiative himself to walk in so he can eat. The most important thing about teaching a horse to get into a trailer is not to make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. This way you never open up the resistance. Don’t forget never ask your horse to go forward until he is looking inside the trailer. If you focus on that alone you will be surprised how this will help you. Horses will eventually walk in the direction of what they are focused on. What I do is that when my horse looks away from the trailer, I bring his head back so it’s straight. I then put slack in the rope and I keep this up until the horse will stand on his own looking into the trailer without my help. That is the moment I ask him to step forward. This is something you can practice on your own. I hope this helps.
The Archer and the pause: Leadership and the training of horses are about the pause and knowing when to act like an archer. In the Archer's hand just before he let's go of the arrow, there is a pause. If you can act in that moment the bull's-eye is yours. This is how to lead. In the moment that you put your horse in the right state of mind and in the moment that you have his full attention, he will understand what you want and he will follow your lead without resistance.
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