I want to dedicate this blog to you, my students. For you the readers, the current online class is more than halfway through and this blog might help you as well if you are already familiar with my method. I want to give you a deeper understanding of the Eye Contact Ritual. Many students find this Ritual to be the hardest to understand and to practice. However, I feel it should be the easiest so I think for this reason I want to offer more explanation.
Liberty training is a word that I coined for training a horse at liberty without tack to create a better partnership. I own the trademark "Liberty Training". The end result is to develop a student who understands the true nature of horses and how to dance with a horse at liberty spontaneously, where the horse at all times stays focused on this trainer’s direction and the trainer knows how to direct a horse to stay engaged.
It is so important that a horse uses his eyes to stay in contact with you at liberty. When a horse does, it is a sign that he is interested in you and willing to follow your lead. When a horse uses his eyes, he is engaged with you and what you are doing. If you have all the lines of connection shared in the moment the horse’s performance will be at the top of his ability. (The lines of connection are Bond, Trust, Respect, Focus and willingness.) When a horse does not use his eyes it can be a sign that he is shut down. You can bring the horse’s spirit and ego back by the practice of this Ritual. The result of the Eye Contact Ritual is that a horse gains a sense of fun being told what to do from the simple request “look at me”. This causes a horse to want to follow your lead and figure out what you are asking in general. It is an ego builder because he learns he has a voice. Through a simple look, he can stop your approach and keep you from asking him to leave his food.
It might be the horse’s favorite Ritual along with Intimacy Bucket exercise. In this Ritual a horse gets to eat all he wants while you are standing in front of him with a single pile of hay between you, as long as he is willing to look at you with two eyes when you cluck to get his attention. It is important though that if you ask him to move away from the pile of hay, that he would be willing to do so.
Before we do this Ritual, we do the introducing food exercise where the horse learns how to be polite and follow your directions to be able to eat and share personal space with you.
There are three stages to the Eye Contact Ritual. In the first stage your horse needs to look at you with two eyes for a second to be able to continue eating. A horse should pick this up really fast. If he does not look at you, he is asked to leave the pile. When you are doing this you are standing in front of your horse.
When your horse looks away you remind him with a cluck that if he does not commit to looking at you, he will again be asked to leave the hay. Afterwards you always let him return to his food as soon as he wants to. What you hope he will do is leave and then come back quickly. I let my horses eat for some time before I start with this exercise so that they become invested in eating from the pile.
You do not go on to the next stage until you no longer need to move your horse away from the pile. Any time you need to move your horse away be really gentle, do not surprise him, but be strong enough to move your horse away. Allow enough time between clucks as not to discourage your horse or cause your horse to feel afraid of you.
The second phase is to step to the side of the horse and cluck. The horse will need to turn his head and neck to be able to look at you with two eyes. This is important because you want the horse’s full attention. If your horse does not look at you with two eyes you step further to his side, stop and cluck again. When you get past the point of his shoulder and he does not look at you, then ask him to leave. Remember that he can return to his pile immediately. Every time he looks at you whether you asked him to or not, move back to your starting position standing in front of him. You horse learns every quickly that he can control your advancement to his side with a look. It very quickly turns into a game for him. To help the horse see this as a game, when you advance to his side you move very slowing and when he looks at you then move very quickly to the front of your horse again and resume a relaxed presence. Let him eat for awhile for a reward before asking him to give you his attention once again.
In the third stage what we want is that your horse not only turns his head but will swing his hunches away from you to be able to see you. If your horse does not respond to your cluck, you keep stepping around to the back of the horse and when you are behind him you send him away again. The Eye Contact Ritual is easy to learn. Horses love to keep you in your place and they get to enjoy your company and their meal.
The result of the Eye Contact Ritual is that a horse will get into a habit of looking at you all the time. When you have this kind of focus a horse is very willing to follow your lead effortless, easily, and naturally. This is important because the eye contact replaces the need for tack.
I hope you enjoyed this free lesson in the Eye Contact Ritual. I will be having another online class in the Waterhole Rituals next Spring and you can register early by emailing Teddie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great weekend! Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.