The Rider's Mental Approach- the unaddressed factor





Frequently though through good intention, usually in an attempt to show kindness, folks try to pacify, mask and cloak unwanted interactions with the horse. Unfortunately, by not "digging in" to what is contributing to the horse's unwanted behaviors, and instead "going along with the horse" tends to teach the horse to "take over" in situations he is unsure about. 

Not many professionals tend to discuss "it" in mainstream lessons, but the mental approach of the rider/handler needs to be addressed. This affects the human's emotional reaction and interpretation of real-time interactions they experience with their horse. Which in turn affects how the quality of their physical communication with the horse. 

By focusing on the sources of unwanted events with the horse, rather than the symptoms, usually requires the person to first look at themselves. This can help narrow down and address what pieces in the human's education may be missing and need to be addressed. By doing so, allows them to specify a suitable and supportive professional that can help they can learn how to expand their education. 

One of the most common things I hear with new students is how they felt disregarded, unheard and not believed by their past trainers when voicing concerns or when trying to explain their fear or lack of understanding. 

Unfortunately many mainstream approaches in the horse industry involve bullying (even with good intention) both the horse and rider into doing things, irrelevant of all the signs of fear and resistance the horse may be exhibiting. Then, when the horse is finally at his emotional and mental limit, and physically acts out in dramatic and dangerous ways, everyone acts surprised and reprimands the horse for doing so, despite all the warnings he had initially given. 

So before you start talking about all the behaviors you don't like or see in your horse, first start with yourself by asking these questions: 

Can you interpret (not assigning human emotions to them) your horse's physical postures- ears, eyes, nostrils, muscles, breathing, etc.? 

Can you learn to recognize where your horse's focus is and how to influence his thoughts? 

Do you recognize how to influence your horse through your own energy and intentions? 

Do you have clarity in how to establish spatial boundaries with the horse? 

Have you assessed how your horse feels about spatial and physical pressure? 

If there is defensiveness, are you addressing improving how to communicate clearly and effectively establishing these? 

Have you learned how soon the timing is you must address your horse when he is "asking" something? 

The above questions are your starting point for YOUR own education, in order to offer honest and specific communication so that you may begin to have respectful conversations with the horse, rather than to feel at his mercy.

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