Feeling safe around a horse is the most important aspect of establishing connection. If you don’t feel safe the horse won’t feel safe and will not connect to you. Once a sense of mutual safety has been established trust can take root and you can grow a meaningful relationship with the horse.
A precondition for feeling safe with another living being is getting to know them. With horses we do this by observing their behaviour and by extending them the courtesy of allowing them to observe our behaviour too. We get a sense of their state of mind (mood) and they get a sense of ours.
While getting to know each other will be the focus of this session, we will also be practicing elements of safe horse handling that we will examine in greater detail in subsequent sessions.
By the end of this session you will understand the importance of, and have had an opportunity to practice:
- assessing horse mood by observing behaviour
Principles to Be Practiced
- safety first – for you and the horse
- present moment awareness
- “entering the moment” – mindfulness practice to become aware of horse, self and environment
- assess the herd
- halter a horse and lead it away from the herd
- groom the horse
- practice creating and maintaining personal space using a carrot stick
- back the horse away
- draw the horse in
- cause the horse to yield its hind quarters
Questions to Consider
Before you arrive think about and be prepared to discuss the answers to the following questions:
- What are Jon Kabat Zin’s seven essential attitudes of mindfulness? Are any of them applicable to working with horses?
- What is the main medium of equine communication? How can we use this knowledge to facilitate our relationship with horses.
- Do you need to establish leadership over your horse? Why? What are the characteristics of a good leader?
- What does a horse need to feel safe?
- How do you gain a horse’s respect and trust?
- What are we looking for when we assess the mood of a horse(s)? Does a horse’s mood change how you handle it?
- Can you envision situations where you could be hurt by a horse when handling it on the ground? What could you do ahead of time to prevent these situations from arising? To mitigate risk if they do happen?
- What are the three main things you need to be mindful (aware) of when working with a horse?