Contributed by: Windy Griffith, Rebel Barrel Horses
As trainers, we put a lot of focus on giving a horse its confidence, but what about the rider?
I was watching a young horse riding the other day. It was probably the fifth time the horse had ever been ridden. As you watch a young horse that is as inexperienced as this one, you can see the uncertainty of what the rider is asking her to do.
While watching the horse and rider, I started to see something I had never paid attention to before. It was obvious the young horse was not very confident just yet, however, I noticed the horse showing the rider she was ready for more pressure to progress. What I mean by that is this: When the rider would kick or apply pressure the times before, the young horse would either lock up or jump nervously. It was then that the horse seemed less anxious about the pressure and would try to understand what was being asked of her. I saw in that instant, for the first time, the horse building confidence in the rider to go further and take the next step.
Now, the rider would not have to wait and see what the result of the horse might be when applying pressure like before. The horse was able to show confidence to the rider and do what was being asked. I was observing the true nature of teamwork and bond we can have with horses.
Often, I feel as a trainer, it’s my job to build confidence in the horse, but I have spent very little time thinking about how a horse builds my own confidence as a rider. More times than not, I feel that a horse takes away my confidence rather than building me up. Looking back, maybe I was not allowing the horse to speak to me in building my confidence. Maybe I’m not listening to the horse the way I thought I was… or maybe the horse had tried to tell me something I had missed resulting in a breakdown in communication and now we have obstacles to overcome in both of our confidence.
When things come together, I feel it’s because we have finally gotten on the same page as a team. Now, I feel I need to listen more to the horse. They can build my confidence just as I do theirs by giving them more credit in having a say. Then we should be able to move forward as a team versus me calling all the shots.
It is not easy to hear when a horse is only able to whisper to us.
So, how do we hear those whispers?
The best way I can relate this experience to you is by comparing it to listening when God speaks to us. We do not actually hear him speak audibly, but we know it’s him talking. I feel the same way with horses. I don’t always outright hear them, but I can feel, see and notice what the horses are saying. It takes practice and patience.
If you look at any successful horse and rider team, you will see they have a strong bond and a great relationship. Those two have spent enough time together listening to one another to get to the level they are at.
If you want to be successful, think about how you can listen to your horse more and let them have a say in the training as well. Let them build your confidence.
Horses whisper. It’s our job to hear it.
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