We all want to develop a good solid connection with our horse. Even folks that ride in completely different styles agree that if their horse is really connected to them, the ride or the job goes much smoother. How we develop that connection and how we test it can help us improve our awareness and understanding of our horse’s connection to us.
As with a lot of things with our horse, the answer to the question of whether our horse is connected to us or not lies in their feet. Are the feet connected to the lead rope? Are they connected to the reins or our seat or our leg? Ray Hunt would talk about how he wanted to communicate with his horse through its mind, down through its body and legs to its feet. Watch some old video of Ray on his horses and you’ll get a good picture of what it’s like to have a horse really connected to its rider.
Developing a good and real connection to our horses requires an understanding and awareness of when they are and when they aren’t connected. To check that out, try this simple test. Go out to catch your horse. Be particularly aware of when he sees you coming and how he reacts. Be particular about whether he helps you get the halter on or whether you’re chasing his nose around with the halter. Ask yourself if you feel your horse being interested in what you’re offering or if he would rather be somewhere else. When you lead him off, does he match your pace or does he hurry ahead or drag behind? When you stop, does he stop with you or does he walk on by? All of these things matter to the horse. As we become aware of how he is responding to our direction, we can become more particular about how we direct and how accurate we expect his response to be. It seems that the more particular we become and the higher our expectations are, the better our horses connect to us. With that improved connection, I’m predicting you’ll see much more accurate responses to your leadership.
Another piece of the connection question revolves around consistency. If, as the leader in our horse’s life, we develop some kind of consistency in our presentations and expectations, our horses can become more comfortable with us. We want them aware of us, not wary of us. For example, if I consistently expect my horse to offer to put the halter on and make sure that the halter does not go on until I get his assistance, I’m developing a good habit based on consistent expectation. If, however, part of the time I go to catch him in a big hurry and just slap the halter on and other times slow down to get his assistance, I’m being inconsistent enough to keep some doubt in his mind of just what I am and how I’m going to behave. Inconsistency can be one of the things that short circuit the development of a good connection with our horse. They need to be comfortable with who we are even when we change things up a bit. We don’t have to develop routines, that is, doing things in the same order, but, we should be consistent in how we present things and what we expect as a response.
I hope this gets some thoughts and questions popping in your mind. We’d love to hear what you think about ways to better connect with horses.