Connection is that thing that allows our horse and ourselves to feel each other and to respond in the moment – to seek and be a union of two minds, bodies and spirits – to express that union in pleasurable movement, whether that be the joyous expression of true dressage or the smooth, economical movement of a long trail ride together or the explosive power of a horse working with cattle – Jenny
By the time we’ve practiced a technique for long enough to get good at it, our horse is way too often dead to the usefulness of that technique and we’ve put so many braces and stuck spots and even resistances in there, that we are lucky that we have this work that we do here, to be able to release all those problems.
By over-using a technique without consideration for whether it is perfect in THIS moment, we can kill our horse’s ability to express themselves and squash all willing “YES!” responses that we are looking for, out of them – we can “kill” the connection with our horse.
It’s even worse when we see a trainer doing the same technique over and over again in disconnection, maybe getting the physical result because of their skill, but creating despair in the horse and long term damage in their bodies. That’s my often repeated “emotional stress causes physical tension that causes posture problems that causes joint damage.”
When we put a leg here to block a shoulder, when we pick up a rein with too much turn in it, when we bend a horse further than they can go willingly, when we turn our bodies further than our horse can turn – all these things are techniques gone wrong – techniques of disconnection – techniques done without feel for whether they are right, for this individual horse, in this individual moment.
In connection, we and our horse are seeking together, we are feeling in each other for the solution to any lack of freedom in our bodies, to any stuck spots, to any resistances, to any braces in our bodies, in whatever activity it is that we are doing – feeling for the perfection, seeking to feel good in whatever it is that we are doing.
THEN a technique is not so much a technique, as a natural flow of conversation together, as we feel how to expand what works together and seek the best for each other.
The result of technique applied with feel and love and connection, is a horse seeking their own healing, seeking their own release of resistance, seeking the solution to a brace in their own body and ours – it’s both of us seeking a freedom in movement together. It’s a joyously beautiful thing …
…and it is way too rare…
… and it IS available to we ordinary people!
So how can we learn and practice what we need to learn?
Learn your techniques by all means. They may be useful some day in the flow of the moment. But don’t get stuck in them, don’t disconnect from your horse with them by over using them or even by over practicing them. Practice them MINDFULLY. Asking your horse to help YOU to learn a technique can stop that sad spiraling into the disconnection that I see so often out there in the horse world.
Find simulations where you can practice without your horse – stand there physically and go through the motions of doing your side of the task, or use your imagination to visualize what the technique is and IMAGINE yourself practicing it with your horse, but don’t practice it over and over again on your horse in disconnection just so that YOU can get good at it.
Be guided by your horse in the moment as to what you do and decide not to compromise the mental, emotional and physical connection that you have right now.
An example of a technique gone wrong
Before we have a look at an example of what I’m talking about, let’s start with what I look for in a horse and rider or horse and handler. I am looking for harmony and togetherness in mind body and spirit of both horse and the rider, along with health, happiness and mutually co-operation between the horse and person – the kind of thing that you see in the photos of Frederic Pignon with Templado and Alizee Froment with Mistral above and Noora Ehnqvist below.
So let’s take the example of yielding the horses hindquarter – both on the ground and in the saddle and see how that fits with what I’m looking for.
It’s an excellent technique which can be used to DISENGAGE the horse and bring them back to you, mentally and physically or it can be used more subtly to achieve the opposite result – to ENGAGE the hindquarters for building strength into both sides of the horse evenly, to help them balance and to elevate the horses back for more collection. It’s a fabulous technique.
But ONLY if it’s done with connection and feel and IF it’s the right technique to use with this individual horse in this individual moment!
Unfortunately it’s also a technique that over and over again I have seen done TO the horse and used in a way that DISCONNECTS – that has produces bracing and resistance and eventually that terrible damage to the horse’s body and despair in their minds that I talked about earlier.
When it’s used with any force or “make”, however small, then it’s not going to produce the overall harmony and togetherness and joyful YES! with my horse that I am looking for.
So let’s summarize how we too can use techniques with connection
1. You DO NOT have to repeat and practice the same thing over and over again to get good at it. I repeat, you DO NOT – even if repetition has worked for you in the past. That’s old learning theory and not what we use here.
2. We’re all unique, so the way in which we can best get techniques quickly into our brain and muscle memory will be different. This is the reason that so many people think they aren’t good at things, just because we’re different to the person next to us. There’s some great information about the different ways that people feel, in the free foundation lessons The 9 Keys to Happiness with Your Horse.
3. Use simulations, i.e. get creative about practicing getting good at a technique without your horse. Get the physical feel of the rope or reins in your hands and the turn and feel of your own body as you practice, maybe even have a person on the other end.
4. Both in your simulations and when you work with your horse, feel inside yourself, use the Inner Awareness that you started to learn in the free lessons The 9 Keys to Happiness with Your Horse and expanded so well in 21 Days to a Quiet Mind.
5. Use your imagination to visualize the technique and imagine yourself practicing it on your horse.
6. If you practice your techniques MINDFULLY and SLOWLY, you could even ask your horse to help you and learn it together as a feel good exercise. This is a big and wonderful concept!
The Comments section below
What other techniques do you see as being commonly used as the enemy of connection?
This is SUCH an interesting topic and so complex and so at the heart of our philosophy of working cooperatively with a horse, that I would love it if people would ask questions, bring comments and different perspectives in the comment section below, so that the whole conversation becomes a weaving of the article itself.
EXTRA DELIGHTS FOR YOUR GOOD HEALTH!
I made an executive decision recently and most blogs from now on are going to have some kind of extra delight for you or your horse’s health – maybe even for another animal occasionally. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a newsletter, cos’ I don’t have time for that! I’ll just share some kind of tidbit to improve our lives.
And here’s today’s…
What simple and cheap to make at home food helps you to look younger while it gives a phenomenal natural boost to your immune system, reduces the inflammation of things like arthritis, leaky gut and other digestive problems, improves your skin and hair and nails from the inside out, supports cartilege repair as well as cardiovascular health, bone health, skin health, healthy cholesterol levels, tastes delicious and helps your mood.
Which includes the chicken soup of our forebears – yes Grandma really knew what she was doing, even if it was someone else’s Grandma.
If you don’t have the kind of stove that you can leave something simmering gently away for the traditional 18 to 48 hours, then use chopped up bones to get at the necessary bone marrow quicker (buy pre-chopped beef or lamb bones and whack the chicken bones with a meat cleaver to break them) and if my winter fire isn’t on for me to use, I use a pressure cooker to give the best and fastest results. Don’t get sucked into buying it as a pre-made supplement (Good grief what would grandma think!) And buy organic where you can and free range if you can’t get organic.
And don’t forget to add all the lovely vegetables and herbs.