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.
I have come to believe that getting to know horses is (happily) a lifetime undertaking, one best achieved by simply spending time with them! There is also a lot of really great literature out there to help us along. My favourite books (authors) are:
The Art of Liberty Training For Horses by Jonathon Field
How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill
A Good Horse is Never a Bad Color by Mark Rashid
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
- gaining the trust of the horse through friendly companionship
Principles to Be Practiced
- safety first – for you and the horse
- present moment awareness
- 7 attitudes of mindfulness – non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go.
Before the session please read https://esc.rutgers.edu/fact_sheet/the-basics-of-equine-behavior/
- check in / personal mindfulness practice (optional)
- assess the herd
- halter a horse and lead it away from the herd
- groom the horse
- park the horse
- play the friendly game
- 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.
- What are some factors that may affect a horses behaviour?
- 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?
- What are some ways you can tell if you have a horse’s trust?