Over the years, many people have asked me if there’s a secret to communicating with horses, and if so, am I’m willing to share it? As someone who has spent a lifetime being around horses, I’m always happy to share my insight and knowledge—especially when it can enhance the experience you have with your horse.
If you want to communicate with your horse, here’s the secret: slow down and pay attention to what your body is saying about your feelings. If you’re angry, upset, frustrated, or off balance—regardless of how you pretend to be feeling—your horse is going to know. Simply put, you can’t lie to a horse. Horses don’t care what we say because they are only reading our body language. When you’re riding, or even sitting on a horse for that matter, all the horse wants is for you to be authentic, surrender, and find your balance—something that, for many of us, is not an easy task.
Many times, during a lesson, I’ll say, “You’ve got to feel the horse. You’ve got to move and dance with it.” What I’m really asking the rider to do is pay attention to how he or she is feeling, and how the horse is feeling as well, and then ride with purpose. If your horse could use words, he would say, “Come move with me.” It’s no different than when we dance and are completely overcome by the music. At some point, the music takes over, and we stop thinking about what our body is doing. That’s exactly the type of journey you can have through this form of horsemanship. It all begins with feeling the horse and knowing how to communicate.
Often, people bring their own agenda to the horse, and try to change the horse’s natural, fluid movement. We’re talking about a thousand pound animal that is only going to change if you surrender to his movements. The trick, then, is to match the horse’s behavior by being natural and fluid in the way you move.
What many people don’t realize is that horses are a reflection of our own emotional state. When our lives are out of balance, or when we’re holding on to rigidity, we’re communicating our emotional discomfort to our horse, who is more than happy to reflect our neurosis and emotional issues back to us with an array of unacceptable behavior. (But that’s a topic for another post).
For now, realize that if you want to have good, clear communication with your horse, the lesson for any rider is to pay attention to what your body is saying and what your horse is saying back to you. That’s the foundation for good communication.