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October 18, 2022 4 Comments
Moment to moment your horse's energy shifts. And when it does, can you see it? Do you notice the details that tell you the horse has moved from an "I can't do this" mindset to an "I'm emotionally okay but just don't care do see or do what you want right now?"
It can happen in one moment. Literally. Horses can shift from fear and the need to be taken care of kindly, to confused or complacent and the need to be reset, so to speak. And here is what you need to know about it. Well... two things actually.
First, what to do when you see the change,
Because if you don't adapt your strategy and adjust, you'll lose respect and even trust.
Second, how to notice the shift. What it actually looks like in a horse.
I'll do my best to describe it for you. If you miss the cues, don't worry, you're not alone, few people master the skills to read their horse that well. But just know, if you miss it, you do need to pay closer attention next time. It will mean all the difference going forward.
First things first... what to do. I've written similar articles before so feel free to reference them here. And the reasons I say it comes first is because if you aren't ready with your strategy, seeing won't make any difference.
When your horse moves from "I can't too I won't" you must become the leader who says, "don't give up, give me something we can work with respond to me when I ask, even if it's a small response in the right direction." But when they move back to "I can't" you must switch back to being the leader who says, "it's okay, hang in there, I'll be patient for you, we are in no rush, take your time, I'm here for you."
I just described two different personalities. Some horse people think they can get away with only one. In fact, society thinks that we should only have one personality. But it's completely inaccurate. We literally have to shift our personality and identify as someone who cares, but then identify as someone who gets shit done, then back again. One might be naturally easier, making you believe that's "who you are" but you're way more than that. You can be many things.
When they are balanced and practiced the two personalities look like one united front. We admire people who express clarity and charity. But make no mistake, they are two different parts of our makeup that we have to practice bringing forward.
So, for clarity's sake let's repeat. When you see your horse shift from needing kindness to needing clarity, offer clarity. Don't get stuck being nice hoping the horse will trust you because the irony is you will actually lose trust and respect in those moments if you don't step up.
Now. Part two... how to read it.
I've literally devoted an entire video course to this subject. It's called Horse Pychology 101. Get it here. In simple terms however, the signs your horse gives for "I can't" are pretty easy to spot. You'll possibly hear snorting, you most likely see electric reactions like sudden and lightning quick sidesteps or pulling back or bolting forward. You'll see the muscles ripple like they are ready for anything. You'll hear her breathing pause and hold. You'll see the eyes get wide and there will be one of two obvious reactions with the feet. One they freeze and become unresponsive, or two they can't settle. You'll see they avoid letting you touch them in certain places and they keep their head high and tight.
The opposite of all these reactions would indicate a calm responsive horse, which is what we want in the end, but we aren't looking for opposites now. Now we have to look for subtle shifts because when a horse goes from "I can't" to "I won't" it's not always super duper obvious.
One thing that changes is the breathing. A horse that can't, will usually hold their breath. A horse that "won't," usually breathes fairly naturally. Another thing to look for is the electricity. A horse that "can't" will make distinct sudden movements like lightning. A horse that "won't" may still be unsettled but the suddenness will be gone. There may still be a sluggishness to your requests and a strong desire to slip out of position but the reactivity will diminish substantially.
Last week I asked a horse to stand at the mounting block. For the first five minutes she would snort and dart about the block as I stood above her. Then she'd freeze, then bolt again, holding her breathe and such. All the signs of "I can't do this." I patiently waited for her energy and kindly guided her back to me as often as I could. Then, and quite suddenly, she shifted. Her breathing changed, her eyes softened. Her speed changed. She still didn't want to stand under me but the fear was gone. So... I shifted too. I began demanding she stand by me. I offered extreme clarity, as in... "it's better for you if you do this." For a moment, she shifted back, fearfully questioning my new authority, I shifted for her then too. But then, within moments, she shifted away from fear again. And again, I shifted back to clearly guiding what I wanted with certainty. In about ten minutes time she stood under me at the mounting block with TOTAL confidence. And I mean total. And boy, did I reward her!
She wasn't standing there out of fear of what I'd do if she wouldn't. She wasn't standing there frozen. She wasn't standing with her ears pinned, pissed that I made her do something she didn't want to. She was standing there breathing, calm, loose, accepting, trusting, responsive and dare I say... willing. All because, when she needed me to slow down and give her time, I did, when she needed me to show up and give her clarity, I did. She respected and trusted me more as a result.
But how did I know when to do what? Well, you've got some basics here. Dive deeper and buy the Horse Psychology 101 course. Master the signs and become the leader your horse has always wanted.
And please comment below. I live for your voice. You are the heartbeat of our industry. Tell me what you've learned or relearned. tell me how this impacts you. And please share this article with your friends. We are in this together.
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