Are you ready for my SECRET to setting you & your horse up to feel more successful?

Ok, so you know from my introduction that we need to be guided by how our horses feels. If we do this, it leads us to both feeling successful when we are together.

Let me show you how using Royelle as my case study 🙂

You’ve already read the first step I take to tune into my horse's feelings, but let me remind you by putting it into a practical guide:

STEP 1: Start the session at liberty with no tack to allow free expression

The wind was blowing with occasional big gusts that would cause branches in trees to break and things to lift off the ground. Royelle is very big and tall at 17 hands but today she felt like 18 hands. I decided to start my session at liberty with no gear on Royelle at all. This allowed me to get a feeling for how she was feeling that day.

You don’t need a special area to do this - in the paddock or stable is fine. It’s best to start where you first interact with them and then again when you start your training session. Remember our session starts from the moment we are in each others presence.

What’s important is to create physical space between you and your horse so that they don’t feel pressure and also to create mental space for your horse. You do this by simply observing them at the start, not asking them to do anything.

STEP 2: Ask yourself questions about what your horse is feeling

I then took a moment to pause and observe Royelle. I ran through the questions I often ask myself when I observe my horses at the beginning of our sessions...

Do they feel calm? Do they feel high or low in energy? Do they feel spirited or content in their attitude? Are they feeling connected to the session or are they still mentally with the herd?

All of these questions and observing their body language for the first few minutes helps me decide what it is we will do that day. I like to have all of the equipment I might use hanging on the fence ready to take what every opportunity comes my way.

Today Royelle felt like the wind around us. Moments of calm and control, then like a gust of wind she would move her body quickly before taking control of her mind and stopping. She wasn’t really connected to the herd, but equally wasn’t connected to me. In a strange way I would say she was connected to the wind. I decided that if she couldn’t concentrate and connect to me then we would probably be best to stop.
It’s very important that we both feel safe in our sessions together. If we continue and something doesn’t go to plan, there is a high chance that I will have to correct her in an intense way for my safety. This can have a very negative effect on our relationship and can take significant time to recover from.

This brings me to step 3. It is very important not only to find out what your horse is feeling, but to embrace what they are feeling, and let this become your guide.

STEP 3: Let your horse's feelings be the guide to what you do together

At liberty I asked her to move around me a little. She was very disconnected. She was quick to show me that she wasn’t confident to move out very far and wanted to stay at the end of the arena near the gate where she felt safer. So because she was feeling uncertain, I encouraged her to stay in a walk. She didn’t need any more adrenalin. I asked her if she could walk with me a few steps. I stopped and she was able to connect with me for just a moment. I could feel her holding her breath. So I asked her to walk with me again and this time bend through her ribcage to create flexion through her body to help her breath. She was little by little becoming more connected but she was still too insecure to move very far from one end of the arena. So I walked with her, making sure I stayed on the “top side” of the arena. I did this so that if she needed to flee or move suddenly back towards the herd, I wouldn’t block her path and I would be safe. We did this a few times, back and forward until I could feel her interest in me growing.
Once I felt she was able to concentrate on me, I then asked her to move around me again. This time she was very connected to me, but too close to me. I didn’t feel comfortable to have her this close. I had two choices, push her out of my space more or stop asking. I chose to stop asking because I could feel that pushing her out would have only made her more insecure and probably defensive. And she was already telling me she didn’t feel brave.
I decided to walk forward with her but this time in a small circle at the end of the arena where she felt safe. This was a big challenge for Royelle. What might have normally seemed a simple activity for her, today was a very big deal. If I had of approached her how she “normally” is then I am sure that we would have ended in conflict.
Instead we both finished feeling brave and successful. I felt successful because I was able to work with Royelle in conditions that I would have normally avoided and Royelle felt successful because she maintained her self control and bravery. Royelle showed me her appreciation by gently grooming me with her muzzle all over my neck and face. It is unusual for her to give such displays of affection. This day was a big step forward in our trust of each other.

I hope these 3 steps are helpful for you next time you are with your horse. To help you with step 2, I’ve created a free printable prompt card - you may like to print it out and put it near your training area, or keep it in your pocket to help you create a habit of asking yourself how your horse is feeling.

Here is a summary of the steps I take to tune into my horse's feelings so we can feel successful together:

STEP 1: Start the sessions where your horse resides at liberty with no gear to allow expression. Do this again at the arena if training becomes part of your plan

STEP 2: Ask yourself questions about what your horse is feeling

STEP 3: Let your horse's feelings be the guide to what you do together

I would love to hear what happens when you add this into your training routine!

Soon enough, tuning into your horse's feelings will become second nature and your horse will LOVE you for it.

I have sent the above steps to you by email so you can keep it to refresh your mind as you learn to be guided by your horses feelings. If your email doesn't arrive, please check your spam, junk or promotional folder.

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