Lesson in Connection: How to Hold Ora’s Horse
Continued From Last Week: “After Liberty Training - The Importance of Leading Your Horse” After all your comments of anticipation for this lesson, I surely hope I do not let you down! These simple exercises that follow will teach you how to hold Ora’s horse. You can use them any time you are leading your horse.
Reminder of the upcoming clinic in March:
Developing Your Approach to Connection: In a Nutshell
Taking this approach will help your horse to follow your lead. Become the change you want in your horse and accept what you get back from your horse. Do not beat yourself up when you do not receive what you think you should get back, either.
Imagine your approach and the connection you are wanting to gain before you do this exercise. Before you begin, take a few moments or an afternoon to become relaxed and grounded. Feeling calmness will help your horse become centered when he feels scattered. Not being scattered yourself draws a horse to your leadership. Develop a habit of projecting calmness when your horse feels scattered. As you are practicing this exercise, take your horse to places he can feel a resonance with you and allow the connection to grow and take hold before starting out to new places. While you are training your horse to lead, do not take him where he does not want to go. This will help you keep the harmony, trust and respect. It will help you gain the ability to take him to places he would not have wanted to go earlier. As the relationship grows and the connection is palpable, using a strong aid on occasion will not hurt the bond; this can help get a horse unstuck and develop the heart connection further. So this is the nutshell for your approach.
Before You Begin…
This exercise is for horses that already know how to lead or know Companion Walking at liberty. What you want to accomplish through leading and pausing, standing still or waiting with your horse is to bring forth the Magnetic Connection, so he will naturally want to stay with you when you are leading him with a rope and halter.
Walk, Halt, Repeat… Here is the simple exercise; take some time practicing it. First stand with your horse when all is still; then walk him forward with you, halt and repeat. That is it! When the connection begins to weaken, ask for halt again and stand there until it returns before walking forward again. You could put some music on to create the mood of connection you want to share with your horse. Let the horse hear the music with you. This way he will understand your rhythm better and be able to respond more easily.
Keep slack in the rope while standing and walking. You do not want the rope to play a more important part in leading your horse than the connection you have. If your horse takes the slack out, simply give him more slack; then take the slack out and use the rope to guide his return to you; then offer him more slack again. This is how you take back the leadership in a simple, timely and relaxed manner.
When standing or leading, mentally send a message to your horse that you need him to stand still or that you would like him to begin walking with you.
If he fusses and moves his feet while he is standing, you can use the rope to guide his legs back to the exact spot he was standing; then you release the rope to a slack line. Look at the ground where you want him to stand. Pay no attention to him at this time so you can put your full focus to the ground. Try to be very accurate getting your horse’s feet to stand on the exact spot he left. This is how stallions go about getting their mares to stay in a tight circle in nature.
The practice of this exercise will improve the connection when you ride your horse. Do this exercise for 15 minutes and then ride and do the same exercise when you are on him and then go about your regular work. This exercise will evolve the training of your horse without having to use force.
Taking the Exercise to the Next Level
After you have done this exercise both on the ground and under saddle, if your horse is advanced enough, move into trot and canter on a 20-meter circle to warm your horse to move forward in simple transitions. Any time you start to lose your ability to direct your horse from the saddle move gently back to halt. Pause until the connection with your horse is strong.
Walk shoulder to shoulder with your horse when you lead him with tack, just like in Companion Walking at liberty. If your horse is following you, the magnetic connection is not there. It is also safer to have a horse at your side than behind you. You can keep track of your horse easier when he is at your side and he will not have a desire to take a nip, which horses like to do when walking behind anything. It comes from their herding instincts. They just can’t help it! This is how horses herd each other. This is why leading from behind works so well with horses at liberty. As your horse becomes more connected and seasoned with being at your side, you can then ask your horse to walk in front of you. It gives the horse almost the same kind of connection with you when you ride him and direct him from the saddle.
A Look Back...
I have started so many horses under saddle, I have lost count and I never had a horse want to buck with me. I took no more time than any other trainer but my focus was different. I started my horses at liberty, without tack. This developed the trust, respect, attention and desire of the horse to want to stay with me and accept my leadership on his terms. I was careful not to try to push the trust into a horse but instead I allowed the trust to form.
Much of my success comes from using my energy as a training aid and training at liberty to develop our partnership performance. My main focus is getting the mind of the horse to be in sync with me. I try to stay away from the drama.
One of the everyday rules I follow is: If I could not put my five-year-old child on my horse, I do not get on. I hear about people not taking heed of this simple rule and then getting hurt.
Before You Start with a Rope: How to Keep Your Aids Light
It is better to have your Companion Walking developed to its fullest before you start leading with a rope; this way when you use the rope your aids will be light. It is a good idea to have practiced at liberty doing many patterns and speeds of walking and halt before you lead with a halter, especially if you are dealing with a big, energetic horse. If you are not working your horse at liberty, just work on your horse being relaxed and standing still before you ask him to go somewhere. This is how you can start.
When you lead a horse with a halter and rope, think of the rope having no purpose, until you lose the connection with your horse from the horse moving so far away from you that he begins to pull on the rope. There should always be slack in the rope, except when you need to bring your horse back to you.
If the Connection is Lost… I am going to repeat what I wrote earlier. When you loose the connection, stop going forward with your horse, wait till the horse pulls the rope, then release the pull and bring him back to you by using the rope. As soon as your horse responds to your suggestions, release and let him come to you on his own. If he does not respond, loosen the rope and ask again. If at that point you still have a horse that is not listening to you, return your horse back to liberty or take your horse to a place that would cause him to settle down and reconnect before asking anything more out of him. He is just not ready to be led when he responds this way. We do not want to use tack in a harsh way, because it can be done using light aids. Light aids can be used always.
Any time the connection deteriorates when you are leading your horse, go back to the standing exercise. The standing exercise deepens and matures the magnetic connection you need for leading your horse.
Periodically stop your horse to educate him that stopping and waiting is as natural as going. Without asking a horse to stand on a slack rope, a horse can get into a habit that when he is with you he needs to keep moving, because you have inadvertently taught him that. This can take the halt right out of your horse under saddle and create a horse that will not listen to you, will become nervous and start shying at things. If you work with this exercise, bomb-proofing will be less of an issue, because he will be focused and stable in your hands. Your calm energy will have a strong influence over him. When riding your horse, using this same formula you will get the same results. When the connection is strong enough, outside influences are hardly noticed, especially when the horse feels happy and optimistic. This is something we should always take time to maintain.
Be sure, any time you are standing with your horse, that he is on a slack rope and he has your full attention. If he fusses, let him. Manage him on the spot you are standing on, and wait until the horse becomes relaxed and willing. Standing on one spot will settle a horse and take the spook out of him. Wait until your horse understands that standing is going to take some time before moving on. This will help boom-proof your horse in a smart way and keep his spirit intact. You will not create a zombie horse.
Why Horses Shy
I find that the reason horses shy at things is that they have not had enough standing practice. This is what causes a horse to shy: The horse is not focused on you and connected enough and has not done enough exercises in standing in relationship to moving.
Important Tip: When your horse gets excited and you are concerned that you might lose your ability to hold on to the rope: Sometimes walking fast will calm a horse down if he is insecure, and sometimes the opposite is true. Pausing may help as well.
My Favorite Tip
My favorite tip is a great big secret in how to build more trust when your horse gets upset. Take your horse back to the last spot he felt relaxed and stay there until he settles down. Remember to be the energy you want your horse to have at this time. When you return to the place the horse was not comfortable, he will be much more relaxed. Once you have grown your influence with your horse using these exercises, you too will be able to hold Ora’s horse. Not only will you have a great connection, you will have developed your skills.
Hope this is of help and I would love to hear from you in how these lessons have improved your horse’s willingness, your lightness and your rein aid when you ride.
Next Week: A Look at Connection with Kai Mattern and Maestro Kai Mattern will write the next blog and story on how these lessons changed Maestro’s ability to be led here at my ranch. Maestro is my new horse I rescued. He is a six-year-old Arabian gelding and has had little practice being led. He can become excited and out of control. The path that Kai had to take him on from his paddock to the arena was very narrow, with aggressive horses on both sides of him trying to pick a fight. Stay tuned!
Please Share! When you leave me a comment this time, I would love to hear stories about the influential people in your childhood that set you on your spiritual journey, like Ora did for me. It is so important to remember each other in our lives and hearts. Your stories do not need to be on horses either. At the beginning of the year, I like to remember the people of my past that aren’t with me anymore, that have impacted the way I choose to do things.
Remember to watch out for more new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.