Horse Whispering, Moments in Connection at Liberty with Sylvia Zerbini
It has been awhile since I have been writing blogs on a regular basis. I hope you like this one!
I recently went to a two day Liberty horse training clinic with Liberty trainer and performer Sylvia Zerbini at Horse Spirit Ranch in Bonsall, CA. I was very excited to attend as I have always loved Sylvia’s connection with horses and her Liberty performances with her 12 Arabian stallions. Horses respond to her like magic! Years before I had previewed the Cavalia show (where Sylvia and her horses performed), when I had been invited to see the show and do an interview with Sylvia for my blog. I will never forget my experience. Her connection with her stallions thrilled me. When they were in performance you could see they were happy, enthusiastic and enjoyed their life. At this recent clinic I reconnected with Sylvia. Liberty, connection and happiness…this is what it is all about for me!
On the first day of the clinic, most of the participant’s horses were nervous, unfocused and felt displaced. Sylvia had no choice but to connect with them in this condition. However in two days time, Sylvia worked her magic and the effects were in full bloom. She connected with the horses though building her energy and then dropping her energy as a way to communicate with them in the same way horses communicate with one another.
What I am going to share in this blog will help you to have a better connection with a horse when you take him to strange places to train at Liberty. The way in which you put on a halter and take it off will help your horse to feel comfortable in his new surroundings and stay focused when you turn your horse loose at Liberty. It will build focus, relaxation and a sense of well-being and belonging. The bond and the mood of your horse is very important. Some people don’t care about the the emotion of the horse because they don’t understand that when the horse is feeling connected and the human puts the mood of the horse as a priority, the performance of the horse is magical. In this state the horse picks up his training easily. Caring about the mood of the horse will bring horse and human to a partnership that starts out magical right from the beginning.
Releasing a horse from a halter at the moment a horse feels a sense of well-being is the secret. If you practice this approach each time you halter and release your horse it will benefit the relationship you have with your horse wherever you are going to work, play, dance or train. The care you take will support any and all equestrian pursuits.
Doing this practice will develop your horse whispering skills because you are completely focused on your horse and his mood. This practice allows the horse to guide you in how to handle him so that you are able to share a perfect partnership with a horse at liberty AND with tack.
When dancing with a horse at Liberty there is a shared leadership that keeps the partnership dancing. In a herd of horses in nature there is no pecking order when harmony is shared. If you keep the harmony and energy alive a horse will naturally follow your lead. There is a chapter in my book, Naked Liberty, titled Leaders of Leaders (page 163) which you might like to read to learn more about this.
Your leadership must be inviting. Let’s face it, in a perfect world, whether we are human or any other animal, we are all happiest when we are getting what we want. If getting what you want helps someone else to get what they want then unity and harmony is born and a partnership forms. It is the same thing for a horse.
When training horses at Liberty, you can’t help but learn how to conduct yourself in a way which brings about a harmonious dance. This is achieved by sharing an even playing field with a horse. When there is an even playing field, you can easily see what is working and what is not and where you need to put your focus. What I mean about an even playing field is that you and your horse are in a 50/50 partnership with one another. In an even playing field your focus becomes keeping the flow of connection with your leadership. This is the formula in the art of horsemanship.
Just the simple way you go about using a halter will awaken you to the energy you are sharing with your horse. Putting your focus on choosing when to put a halter on a horse and when to take it off is crucial.
It is really simple learning how to approach haltering your horse. First Share Territory with your horse. Then put the horse’s halter on when you know your horse is feeling bonded and trusting as well as being in a willing, relaxed mood. He should also enjoy standing quietly by your side and be focused on you. Once you have put the halter on your horse, stand for a while in one spot to allow the “glue to set” between the two of you. Doing this as a daily practice, your horse will begin to enjoy this time he has with you just being together in a still point of connection. Do the same when you go to release him from the halter.
Before you approach your horse to halter him, clear your mind and put your focus on how good it will feel to be in your horse’s presence. He will read your energy…which will help him to enjoy this ritual with you. If occasionally I forget to do this, or get in a hurry, my own horse Firelight will stop me and he will then move very close to me and touch my face gently with his whiskers. This shared touch brings us back to connection. Sometimes we stand there way past the time of reason. It is our shared mediation and we both look forward to it. There are two things that Firelight loves doing with me; one is liberty dancing and the other is Sharing Territory together.
In this practice you will begin advancing your horse whispering skills. When you experience this shared energy you naturally know better how to keep your connection alive and how to direct your horse. What you are experiencing is horse whispering moments in connection. There is nothing to learn. It is only shifting your focus and how you approach your horse.
Because of this practice my horses and my student’s horses are relaxed, focused and feel at home because they have not been hurried or over-faced. From this relaxed rhythm, bit by bit you will become aware and awake to your horse’s true nature. Self- realization rises out of this paring that just can’t be denied. In this kind of leadership, my horses naturally follow my lead because it feels good to do so…and visa-versa for me.
This feel good feeling is the reason is why I have horses. My horse heals my soul each and every day.How to introduce your horse to a new arena: If I were to take my horse to a new location… like a clinic, I would not turn him loose if he was acting nervous and disconnected from me. Instead I would walk around with him in the place I would be working him at Liberty. We would look at things together. I would drop my energy to relax him and when my horse would enjoy standing in this still point without me having to manage him, I would then release him. In this connection my horse is ready to work, play or learn because all of the heartfelt stings of connection are awakened in the present moment. The heartfelt strings are being shared in the moment when a horse feels a bond, trust you, respects you, is in a willing mood and is focused on you. When the halter comes off nothing changes. If you do not have this kind of connection in new places, this approach and practice may serve you well. Tom Dorrance, the famous Horse Whisperer has said, “How you start is how you finish.” It is so important to not overlook each moment in the process of the partnership you share with your horse.
I have noticed that people take their horses for granted because they feel that they have this relationship with the horse. They do not pay attention to when the horse is not feeling that way in the moment. It is very important to stay present. It is traditionally a yoga consciousness for humans, but natural to horses. Remember to stay on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.
P. S. - For my next blog I was thinking about sharing with you something that I learned when communicating with wild horses in nature. What I learned is that there is a code of conduct that brings a herd to a harmonious, one-minded consciousness. If you follow this code when you are asking a horse to accept your leadership, a horse will follow you automatically. I think it is the secret that causes me to be able to easily connect with horses.