Recently I was helping a client show her three year old sport horse at a local county show in Kent. She was determined to keep her relationship with this adorable young horse at the forefront of everything she was doing in her preparations for the show.
We had talked about this at length, everything from how to truly prepare for a good journey (so the horse didn’t arrive stressed), to how to make the bridle and more importantly the bit acceptable for the horse so that he didn’t find it an unbearable burden. One of the things I kept reminding my client was that the ONLY thing that ought to change for this horse on that day was the environment.
So what do I mean by that?
Well consider this. Most human beings let their ego get in the way of the horse’s requirements. The possibility of a place or even a win seems too much to pass up, and so it is with most of us, that we can become completely oblivious to the horse’s needs on that day.
Now I can already hear you saying, “Well I don’t do that… I always put my horse first! How could you say such a thing Cathy?”.
So hear me out for a minute and let’s look at the typical scenario…
We arrive at the show and, true to form, our young horse has changed from the obliging, compliant partner to a screaming banshee that can hardly stand still from the moment we get him off the lorry or trailer, to the moment we leave the ring after the event!
So what has changed for the horse?
I want you to ask yourself, is it just the environment, or have you also changed?
I want you to think about how you handle this fidgety young horse when you have requirements that you feel need to be done before you enter the ring. Time and time again I witness people wrestling with their horse to stand still just so that they can give it one more polish or one more oiling of the feet. Worse still, I’ve seen people get really angry when they are unable to do the cross pattern on its hindquarters! Perish the thought that you would ever enter the ring without that.
Almost worse than that, are the people that try to ‘calm the horse down’… saying things like ‘There there, shush, it’s OK’ and then trying to shut down the movement and energy of the horse. However, by doing this they create disharmony for the horse and it can be quite unnerving for them. An energetic horse requires us to match his energy and then put a ‘bit on top’, so he can feel safe in his own skin.
If we look at things from the horse’s point of view, it is quite likely that he needs to move his feet whilst he is calling for his stable mates, but this doesn’t mean just lunging him in mindless boring circles where he just gets louder and louder. It means that you need to give his mind something to do. I am hoping you have learned some kind of ‘language’ with your horse at home and helped him to understand that he has responsibilities, like ‘Look where you are going’ or ‘Stay out of my space’, or ‘Go and put your nose on that object over there’.
And THAT is my point. If we have established a ‘language’ that our horse understands at home, then we need to be consistent with that ‘language’ when we are in a different environment. This means that WE need to be mindful of our own energy and emotions so that nothing about us changes and our horse can depend on us.
And if we haven’t established a ‘language’ with our horse at home, then perhaps that is where we ought to begin!
How wonderful to see that this client put her relationship with her horse above EVERYTHING else….. Oh and the cherry on top of the icing on the cake is that her little sport horse came 3rd in his class:) We were both happy about that:)