I believe horses are emotional animals!
I have seen horses get frustrated, angry and depressed with my own eyes. So anyone who wants to tell me that horses have no emotions can skip right past this article right now, as this is not an article for you!
Ok…I am extremely passionate about this subject as I am sure you can tell. Why? Because I know there is a way to incorporate emotionally training your horse in your program.
I don’t understand….this sounds like hairy fairy voodoo you crazy woman!
Wrong! There is a systematic logical approach that has proven methods I want to share with you today.
I can’t share everything with you or this article would be an encyclopedia length book for you….and let’s be honest who has the time or desire to read something that long now a days!
I have shared with you already, two principles that you can go out there and apply right now, today with your horse over the past two days. They were “The Relax Cue” and “Teaching Try In Your Horse.”
These exercises were “horse training” exercises that will get you immediate results when working with your horse….but what was the core underlying value that is so different?
The use of intention in the approach. Wow, intention as the main focus word in a horse training article?
YES!!! That is what separates getting spectacular results with your horse and mediocre results with your horse.
So what the hell is emotionally training your horse? I am going to use emotional flexibility in your horse as the meaning of intention. So the intention in every exercise and aspect of your horse training is now to teach emotional flexibility in your horse. (This is a secret I have used in my own training program for the past 20 years)
Your new focus is now to focus on the intention of how you get to the result you want not on the result itself!
Here’s an Example:
You have a tense horse, showing signs of tightness in the muscling of the body, tension and tightness in the neck, poll and jaw. This horse carries that tension with high headed tension as you walk them into the arena. They are worried about anything and everything in that arena. They are emotionally insecure and let’s name this emotion anxiety. (That is something every human can usually put an identification to)
Your training for the day is to teach the horse to back as your groundwork. Let’s jump straight to the end result for a moment. The horse will back up quickly, at a fast pace out of your space off of the line and with stick/whip. Success!!
Well….maybe not. Let’s now break this down through my approach of intention to analyze this.
My intention is I am teaching my horse emotional flexibility as they learn to back on the ground. So that means in my steps I want to teach my horse how to adjust their emotional response to show them how to get to the emotional state I want which is more balance and emotional relaxation that comes through calming the emotional state.
Step 1 –
Teach the horse to relax it’s body, muscling and lessen the emotional state from a place of high alert and readiness to react, to one of a lower reactive state with calmer emotions. This is teaching the relax cue. By showing my horse how to physically relax their body and relieve tension it immediately emotionally lessons anxiety mentally slowing the brain down.
So my horse has now learned in Step One how to give to pressure on the halter and how to relax their body through my intention.
Now my horse learns how to take balanced, slow steps backwards while in this state of relaxation. Key tip is if you add tension back in at this step you will have created tension and anxiety again in your horse. So the intention remains the same!
You ask your horse to take two steps backward while they are positioned in the relax cue, so their head is below the withers. This lifts their backs and causes them to shift their weight onto the hind end while taking even steps backwards with both front and back legs. Imagine your horse placing each foot backwards. You stop and reward after 2 steps and walk to a different spot. Ask for the relax cue and then ask for 2 backwards steps.
I use my dressage whip directly in front of my horses front legs or directly dead center of chest if they are heavy in their body at first. As an encouragement and aid but not as a punishment. I do not want my horse at this step to throw their head up, tense their body, drop their back and frantically back up. That goes against my intention for the exercise.
Step 3 –
My intention is to work these steps into my leading exercise. When I stop I want my horse to stop, relax and drop their head and then back a couple steps. I am not adding speed or corrections at this point only guidance and showing my horse the state I want them to stay in their body and emotionally.
I then continue to progress up to desensitizing with intention and giving my horse more responsibility in learning to soothe their own emotional state to remain in a place of balance. (That is another full training exercise from this approach that you see the start of in “The Relax Cue” video I shared with you already.)
The intention of emotional flexibility approach is the core to all training exercises period! That is what guarantees your phenomenal success.
It IS that basic of a concept for us! Focus on the intention and how you get to the end result not on the result itself!
How do I know that this works?
I won the Western Dressage World Championship Show on one of the most explosive, emotional and angry horses I have ever had in my experiences. If he could shift into the partner it took to go out there and show in that high pressure of a situation I KNOW it can help your horse!
We give you an entire breakdown of the mental and intentional approach to your horse training in our program The Equestrian Confidence Tackbox.
Our goal is to change horses lives, one human at a time, so jump over and check out the Equestrian Confidence Tackbox!
What do you have to lose? Nothing!
But what do you have to gain? A new intentional way to train your horse and your phenomenal results will be your why.