Connecting the Groundwork with Horseback Riding

Connecting Groundwork and Riding

One of the challenges in offering instruction is to communicate clearly with students AND horses. As I overhear, read, or watch many “horse training” sessions/clinics I find that there’s a general lack of “connection” in the student’s ability to understand how the “here and now,” especially in how the quality of their groundwork is, relates to their future ride.
Often new students are able to “talk the lingo,” sounding like they’ve seen a lot, and attempt to go through the steps or concepts they've been taught, but are still experiencing problems with their horse.
After watching other riders or professionals, too many students try to imitate “how it’s supposed to look,” for a specific exercise, task, etc. with no concept as to what the point is of what they are asking their horse to do.
Unfortunately, this diminishes the student's focus on being “present” when they are working with their horse in the “here and now,” because they are fixating on the task accomplishment versus the quality of the conversation with their horse.
I find it as easy for human students to get just as distracted or “lost” as their equine partners often do.
People tend to be unclear as to how they are asking for a movement, then they wait and see what the horse is offering physically, then react with criticism when the horse does not "get it." This teaches the horse to be defensive towards human communication.
Instead, folks need to learn to stay mentally present starting on the ground and continuing throughout the ride.
When the horse is lost mentally and then searching physically, he needs to receive feedback from the handler/rider so that he can search for what the rider is asking of him. This means each thing he offers, needs to be addressed by the human, otherwise he is left unclear and will become fixated on avoiding the interaction.
Creating a mentally available horse, influences his thoughts and emotions, contributing to creating a reasonable and willing equine.
I believe that just like horses people learn in different manners. Even if I’m saying the words and explaining/interpreting what the student is seeing or feeling from the horse, if the student’s brain is “overloaded” or perhaps “ahead” of where they physically are at, distracted, or are unclear, (yes they share this affliction just as many horses do,) they will not be able to really HEAR what I’m saying.
So even if I think I’m being clear, I have to remember that just because I offered the information, does not mean it was received by the human student as I had intended it to.
This is EXACTLY what happens when many folks attempt to communicate with their horse and the animal does not seem to be understanding. The instinct for people is to continue repetitively asking in the same manner with "stronger" aids, rather than to assess for the "holes" in the horse's education.
The challenge for the human is to remain emotionally neutral as they search to find the balance of acknowledging and addressing the horse to help him work through his Counteroffer behaviors, without making him defensive.
A person learning to have the mental discipline to stay present creates continuous, relevant two-way, supportive communication for the horse to search, try, learn, and retain without teaching him fear.
The photo is from my time working in Cambodia a while back. Everywhere in the world I go, all horses "speak" the same universal language of horse.

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