The grey gelding pinned his ears and snaked his neck as the two women approached the paddock fence. “Did you see what he just did? He threatened us!” one of the women exclaimed. “I’ll get my whip and beat the *&$% crap out of you!” shouted the other woman to the horse.
I gasped—involuntarily—when I heard this violent exchange.
I was no more than 10 yards away, silently observing another horse in a nearby paddock. I kept listening to the two women.
From what the women said, it was unusual for this normally-friendly gelding to behave this way. However, they both felt that it was important that the horse not think that he could “get away with” acting aggressively toward them. Oh, dear.
Before I could intervene, the first woman wondered aloud if the horse may be ill or injured. And indeed, the gelding had hurt his leg. They tended to the horse and I didn’t hear the specter of violence raised again.
Still, I left the stable feeling deep sadness.
The grey gelding belongs to the woman who threatened to whip him. He’s been her horse for several years and she shows him in various local competitions. By all accounts, she’s a pleasant person who spends a lot of time and money on her horse. I bet that she “loves” him. Yet, when faced with an unwanted behavior, her first response was to threaten to beat her horse.
And the sad fact is that her response is not unusual. As “horse lovers,” many of us feel justified in the use of the whip. Using dominance, pain and fear to elicit desired behaviors is commonplace in the horse world. So commonplace, in fact, that we rarely question its morality.
But we “love” our horses, right?
Do you love your horse every day, all the time? Or only when he’s doing what you want?
What is your intention when you spend time with your horse? Is your intention to fulfill only your desires?
Or do you try to determine what your horse would enjoy too?
It’s easy to be flippant and say that all your horse really wants to do is sit around and eat. That if you didn’t coerce your horse into moving, he wouldn’t get any exercise at all. And you’d never be able to ride or otherwise enjoy your horse.
You can cultivate a relationship with your horse so that he wants to spend time with you.
And no, I don’t mean that you make being away from you so physically and emotionally uncomfortable that your horse chooses your company as the lesser of two evils. Although, unfortunately, that is what many trainers do.
Instead, your horse can derive pleasure from the time you spend together.
Take my sensitive quarter horse, Breeze, for example. Breeze had changed hands many times before he became my horse. Trying to force this spirited horse into submission, several trainers used violence and pain disguised as “horsemanship.”
Not surprisingly, Breeze was labeled stubborn and belligerent.
Once Breeze became my horse, he experienced a different approach. Instead of trying to force him to do my bidding, I designed activities that my horse could help shape. He had a say in what we did together. Breeze went from unwilling servant to active participant.
Suddenly, Breeze wasn’t stubborn and belligerent. He became enthusiastic and joyful. And it’s my mission to help other horses—and their humans—feel this way too.
Would you like to become a TRUE partner to your horse?
One of the most important steps you can take is to set an intention whenever you spend time with your horse.
Maybe you’d like to experience a deep, delightful connection with your horse. You can think, I intend to feel joyful and connected. The other half of your intention is that you wish for your horse to feel joyful and connected too.
And while you can’t control your horse’s responses, you can certainly influence them with your thoughts, feelings and actions. And when you’re clear with your intention, your thoughts, feelings and actions begin to come into line.
Forming an intention can determine how you relate to your horse. Very importantly, it can keep you from becoming frustrated and upset when things don’t go according to plan. You’ll be able to take a deep breath and realize that you’re working towards something much greater than what you see in front of you.
In a nutshell, setting a clear intention can help you truly act in your—and your beloved horse’s—best interests.
• Before you interact with your horse, set an intention for your time together. Think about how you’d like to feel. Be specific!
• Don’t stick to the same intention day after day. That can be stagnating. Instead, explore different intentions on different days. Here’s one you can try: I intend to feel light and free in my mind and body. And I intend to help my horse feel light and free in his mind and body.
• Notice how your intention affects you physically and emotionally. For example, when you decide to ride with lightness and freedom…
o Is your posture more elegant? Are you more balanced? Are your aids softer and lighter?
o Does your horse move more freely and respond with lightness?
o Does riding become a more relaxed, delightful experience for you and your horse?
• Give your horse a voice by paying attention to his physical and emotional states. This is feedback from your partner, so adjust your actions accordingly.
• Remember to include feelings such as compassion, curiosity and creativity in your intentions. They can help you create a true partnership with your horse!
I help equestrians improve body awareness, confidence, flexibility and posture. This makes riding feel effortless and enhances your horse’s performance too. I’ll be releasing a FREE Feldenkrais® for Riders mini-training. Please click the yellow button below if you’d like to know more.
And now I’d like to know what your equestrian intentions are, so please share in the comments below. And feel free to email me if you have any questions or requests. I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you so much for reading this post. Make it a joyful, intentional day!