Creating a Connection With Your Horse - Practice and Focus
It is amazing to me how approaching a daily connection with my horses can make such a difference.
The daily connection can make the behavior of the horse be either balanced for a good ride or a ride that would be full of resistance. To get on the good side of a horse, I put my attention on letting go of my agenda and watch for when the horse and I feel a mutual connection. If you can not tell if there is a mutual connection, chances are you need to wait longer with your horse before you put on the halter. This point is so important to learn how to connect with a horse, it is worth taking some practice time to work on it. I would suggest to you that if it took days of doing nothing with a horse but waiting for a feeling of connection it would change your whole experience with horses to magical proportions.
Leadership and Timing the "Ask"
I never ask a horse to follow my lead unless I know I have a connection with him. When I ask, I do not tell, meaning that I am very prepared to accept his answer. This is how I approach my communication. I first make a request like asking him to move forward. If my horse does not respond, I then encourage with greater intention and body language. If the gas pedal is not working I work with the Last Waterhole Ritual, Liberty Dancing, to enhance the connection in our performance at liberty. This practice will translate to the saddle easily.
With the Waterhole Rituals you can put your horse in a mood to want to be ridden by creating his interest to follow your lead and enjoy the dance you ask him to perform. When you meet your horse, if you do not have a natural feel for knowing when you and your horse are truly in alignment with one another, you could put this routine into practice. When you go to your horse wait with him for fifteen minutes. Then ask him to move forward a few steps, Then walk away and wait another full minute. Then approach him again and scratch him in the places he would like to be scratched. Little by little try to touch him all over before putting on a halter.
When you saddle your horse put your focus on what you are doing and slow everything down. Take the time to teach your horse to ground tie after he is saddled. Ground tying is when you can drop a rope on the ground and he will stand and wait their until you ask him to move. This will settle a horse down alot. It will help to bomb proof your horse amazingly well. Just this exercise alone can change your horse’s over all daily performance under saddle to be in harmony with you. It will bring a security to your horse that is calming.
What I like to do when I greet my horse is that I ask myself "What do I think my horse would have trouble doing?" Would he be able to go if I ask him to with enough energy to offer it easily? Would he stop easily if I asked him to? Would he wait until I ask him to go? Would he turn sharp or turn wide if I asked? I want my horse to be as easy and precise to move as a dolly that you use to move heavy objects. When I feel a lack of response, I re-school him before I would consider getting on his back.
Coming back to the Present Moment - Every time!
Before I try to interact with my horse each day I put my focus on his state of being in every progressing moment. After I have waited with him for the fifteen minutes and if I feel he is not interested in me, I will do the Hello Ritual along with Leading from Behind with alot of grooming scratches. If he comes up trotting to me I say hello and spend some time in an initial greeting then I might ask for him to stand still for a bit or do some companion walking. I do further exercises to develop a proper gas pedal response. The point is that I never move into the day without making some adjustments to enhance my horses response to my leadership. I run through a check list making note of what I need to re-school with my horse before riding and training. Each day I fine tune my horse with a great attention on a intricate gas pedal meaning that my horse can move quickly or slowly from my direction. I work him on his response to halt, wait, turn wide, turn sharp, all at liberty and then with tack from the ground before training and riding. I also take some time enhancing my horses focus. Horses do not naturally stay focused on one thing because then are prey animals their focus is to be aware of their surroundings. However, with practice they can develop a strong focus.
Connection and Harmony removes the Need for Bomb Proofing
When I have all of this working for me, I then repeat the same elements from the saddle. This approach removes most of the reasons one would need to bomb proof a horse. This is because when your horse is in the zone of connection and harmony with you little will frighten him and if it does it is probably a good thing you take notice of his concern yourself! I do believe that post people's interest and need for bomb proofing comes from not taking the time to warm up the daily connection that you need to have on your horse anyway.
There is no such thing has grabbing a horse and saddling him up and having a good ride or training session. Horses need to be approached with sensitivity while focusing on developing one step to another. First is connection, followed by focus and then the dance - just like in a courtship... ALWAYS. This way you keep a good horse good and you can train the horse of your dreams.
To get that "magical" ride all you need to do is to become involved with a deep awareness of your horse and a deep awareness of how to present your leadership in a way that is desirable to the horse.
Watch out for new horse and human sighting and may the horse be with you.