Musings on Horses

Improving Your Bond with Horses


Note: This is an older article I wrote which refers to the general work with horses but a lot of it also applies to and is of value for the work of a therapist.

Sometimes you see people working with their horses who clearly have a great connection with them. Everything seems effortless and harmonious and it may even give the appearance of some sort of magic which is hard if not impossible to achieve.

However, such magic is often grounded in a combination of different aspects which are not that mystical at all such as:

  • Understanding the nature of horses

In order to work with horses successfully, you must have a clear understanding and knowledge of their natural behaviour and way of learning, how they socialise, communicate, what motivates them, what are their needs. The more we understand them, the better we can relate to them.

  • Clear communication and body language

You need to communicate clearly and consistent. Your body language and guidance must take a form that is understandable to the horse. With consistency, trust is enhanced through the reliability and predictability of your actions.

  • Observation and listening

Observation skills and the ability to read horses should be continuously honed as it improves your ability to better respond to the horse when communicating with them.

  • Joy and reward

Rewards are a great motivator for horses and should be used generously. By creating plenty of positive experiences for the horse, you make it easy for them to be with you and to follow your guidance.

  • Safety and comfort

You should always create and maintain an environment of safety and comfort. The learning abilities of horses are impaired under stress. And while you may not be able to avoid all sources of stress, there is no value in creating unnecessary stress.

When we see horses trained under stressful circumstances and with a lot of pressure, sometimes it may seem that these methods are working. However, it usually is because the horses shut down and give up because they learn that their communication is not listened to. This is not true connection.

  • Continuous learning, humbleness and an open mind

Great horsepeople are usually made not born. Many of them may have some innate talent and inner calling but it takes more than this. It is added to by a willingness to work hard, to keep going and not give up at little setbacks. They never stop learning and keep an open mind which goes along with humbleness and a deep love for horses.

It will help you if you find the understanding that the journey and the little steps are more important than the end goal. You can then go and enjoy the process instead of getting frustrated by not getting where you want to go fast enough and being tempted to take short cuts.

  • Feel

Good horsepeople communicate with horses through “feel” which encompasses the above but also a refined use of their senses and their energy and a receptiveness and openness towards the horse.

And maybe there really is a touch of magic to be found in this.

Picture: Fotolia (c) nikidericks