Fear Limiting our Horsemanship

The fear of "getting it wrong" can overwhelm people into doing nothing. Avoidance is a common "tactic" with both people and horses. The mental anticipation by the human can interfere with their ability to be present for their horse, having thoughts such as:
"Last time I tried to ___________ my horse __________ and I don't want that to happen again."
"What if my horse _______, then we won't be able to _______, so I better not ________ to cause an issue."

Information is a wonderful tool for advancing and improving your relationship with the horse. If for a moment we set aside the cliche "good" or "bad" categories when thinking about our experiences, and instead saw them as more information to make better-educated decisions in how we approach working with the horse in the future.

Horses are the most honest "feedback" machine most humans will ever encounter. They are continually offering conversation. Their ears, their eyes and the potential worry lines above them, the wrinkles in their lips, their breath, the tightness of their neck muscles, the size of the steps, when they swish their tail, etc. None of their behaviors are by accident and none are to be "ornery, snotty, misbehaved," or any other human emotion.

They are operating on the basic need to survive, and even if not in the wild, they either feel safe- mentally and emotionally- or they don't. That is it. Black and white. And most humans operate in their daily lives in the gray area.

The indecisiveness of the human, both within themself, and perhaps due to a lack of understanding of the horse's behaviors, causes them to offer "gray" communication, and then the horse feels the need to "take over," solely out of survival. But the human takes it personally. It isn't.

Part of the person feeling overwhelmed is that they've "taken on" more than what is realistic in what they ask of their horse. Why? Because of what they see "everyone else" doing. Because of "other" horse friends giving good intention-ed advice. Because they saw it on a video.

But each person and their horse is on their own unique journey. By removing the self-induced pressure of having a "plan" that you have to stick to, you allow your own brain and emotions to slow down and see where your horse is at. By allowing yourself to believe the little voice in your head, you eliminate pressuring yourself into asking things of your horse that you know may not be appropriate.

I'm not saying you will never head out to work on something specific with the horse, what I'm saying is learning how to work with the horse is a skill. It takes time, awareness, intention, and removing all judgment from yourself towards you or your horse.

Instead learning to be positive and pro-active, and viewing every interaction with your horse as a learning experience- for YOU. The more you see it as a time to experiment with small, specified communication- personal space, picking up the halter, spatially moving in different places, touching your horse, etc., and look for feedback.

Is he always leaning away from you, even if his feet aren't moving? Does his skin continually twitch when you touch him? Does he "dive" into the halter in a slightly obnoxious manner? Does he get bothered if you interrupt him from what you're doing such as walking out the gate or stall? Does his breathing change the more you ask of him?

Ignoring his subtle, honest, initial behaviors if he is displaying concern, insecurity, bother, etc., the horse is already telling you that the more you ask of him, the more uncomfortable he'll be, and the behaviors he'll resort to due to that emotional and mental state, will cause you to be uncomfortable.

So learning to take the feedback from the horse, and learning how to work through that information offered from the horse, experimenting with how, when, and what you are doing when you are interacting with him, and ANSWERING his unwanted behavior, avoiding thoughts, etc. can help you support him working through the scenario, building both of your confidence levels.

Fear, as with anything, can be debilitating, so rather than getting overwhelmed by the "big" picture, starting with small moments, will be the initial foundation pieces in the relationship with the horse leading to the quality partnership you are striving for.

P.S. What is interesting in my own experiences is the "support" I get when working with horses, hence the picture I posted with this write up. But really, the cats, dogs, wild turkeys, deer, etc. all seem to be drawn into the conversation I'm having with the horse.

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