The many people that train horses at Liberty are wanting to grow their connection with a horse without training, in the same way that the boy made a connection with the Black Stallion on the beach in the movie the Black Stallion. I try to have evolution and Sharing Territory do most of the work for me in my training programs. This way as I move into training a horse for bit-less classical dressage, I have a true dance partner that I can communicate with that finds dressage, and a partnership with me, as second nature. So how does a relationship develop with a horse where training is omitted, in the training of the horse, and that free choice is in the hands of a horse?
Of course Sharing Territory is the answer as it allows the relationship to evolve in a natural way.
So what does that look like?
When I start developing my relationship with a horse and I am Sharing Territory with him, I hang out with him and interact with him in the same manner as another horse would do in a herd, where one horse will influence another as to where they choose to go.
How to get a horse to allow you into this shared influencing with one another is through mirroring a horse’s behavior.
The best place to practice mirroring a horse’s movements is in a field, but if you don’t have a field an arena will do. This way when I'm working in a field, or I've set the arena up to mimic a field, I can mirror my horse’s movements while Sharing Territory like an individual horse would do in a herd. Mirroring horse behavior has so much value when working with horses at Liberty in order to gain a more meaningful bond. It is so valuable that I thought I would write about it in my blog.
Mirroring horse behavior is seen very clearly in one of my exercises, 5 Piles of Hay. I talk about reciprocal movements, which is the same thing as mirroring a horse’s behavior. The reason I use the phrase reciprocal movements rather than mirroring, in this particular exercise, is that there is going to be an exchange where the horse influences you and vice versa along with mirrored exchanges. It is in the interactions that take place between individuals in a herd that bring about a horse accepting you as part of his family. This is the first step that lessens the need for active training. In the mirroring that occurs in this exercise the student is able to develop a deeper connection with their horse.
I use reciprocal movements throughout my Waterhole Rituals. By doing this my students learn how to be with a horse in a passive and an active way that brings about more willingness in the horse, just like the shared movements do in herds. The student learns to mirror a horse in many ways. For example: if the horse walks away, the student walks away or if the horse comes to you, you go meet the horse and say hello. Sometimes you will follow him and sometimes not. At these times you are mirroring herd behavior in general. This is what I am describing when I discuss reciprocal movements in the class.
I have used the principle of mirroring a horse’s behavior all my life. I started this when I was a little girl with my family in Indio California. We had horses in our backyard and I felt that if I joined with them and did what horses did, by acting like a horse, that I would gain an even deeper connection than what I already had. If the horses were eating, I would act as if I was eating by moving the food around in the same fashion that a horse does while eating. I would go over to the water trough and drink water just like they did. I would look alert at the same things that got their attention. I would act as if I was sleeping when they slept and I played just like them when they played.
Here is an exercise you can try with your horse:
Go out into the pasture, field or arena, and spend a morning joining him while he is grazing and mirror his movements doing what he does and going were he goes. In this process you should start developing the ability to read his mind by predicting what he is going to do next. You will be able to feel how long you think he will stay in one spot, when he feels like moving on, and in which direction he will take. After an hour of this practice, or less, try walking away from him when you think, or feel, that he might join you. When he follows you, for a few feet, let him and then when he stops to eat go back to following him. This way of being with your horse will have a profound positive impact on your relationship and connection. You will gain so much knowledge about your horse’s behavior.
Have fun, be safe and please let me know in the comment section below how it goes.
Have a great Labor Day weekend! Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.
We have just filled the Insider's Circle Online Course, but we still have spots available in the Extended Circle Online Course. Hope to see you there.
Here is a fun video to watch. When you view it, watch for the bay horse and myself mirroring each other's movements. Also, watch for the result in being able to lead wild horses that I have never seen before to follow my lead. I accomplished this through sharing reciprocal movements with them earlier and mirroring their behavior.