Trust and Respect between Human and Horse
“Trust and respect is something you earn, not something that is given.”
by Billie Jean King
I believe that good training can only be built on respect and trust. When respect or trust are lacking, and the horse is in doubt of the person that is supposed to be the leader in the relationship, then it becomes more difficult and even dangerous to work with the horse. Inappropriate interactions with a horse for a period of time can change the horses character and behavior. Sometimes retraining is needed, by using clearer signs, from an experienced trainer. However, retraining doesn’t mean to be rude to the horse and to punish it all the time. It’s about clear and calm quick corrections and a lot of praising to promote the horses self-confidence.
Sometimes it is difficult to know whether an undesirable reaction comes from lack of understanding, to much energy, fear, tiredness, pain or something else. Experience helps to figure out why the horse might be resistant. Fact is, if you want a horse that is healthy and happy to work with, a horse that trusts you even in dangerous situations, you must use training methods that are clear and fair to the horse. No one can dance with lightness and inspiration with a pistol held to their head. The same is true for the horse. With forced methods, punishment or abuse, we only create horses that are afraid and react out of panic.
If you are not sure why your horse gives you a undesirable reaction such as bucking, rearing, not wanting to move forward than you should ask an experienced trainer to help you. In my experience horses are usually very willing to do what we humans ask them to do and “misbehavior” is only a call for help or a lack of respect. Good or bad behavior is the horse’s language to tell us either everything is fine or something is not quiet right. Undesirable reactions can go from taking off, because of an insufficient amount of work; or bucking and rearing, because of a sore back from a bad fitted saddle; to not wanting to move, because of physical pain. As a trainer it is up to me to figure out, if the horse was treated wrong and needs to gain trust and respect again, or if the horse is in pain. If it is not obvious where the horse’s behavior comes from, a great team of professionals can help. I have the best team that includes a veterinarian, equine sports therapist, saddle fitter, farrier and body worker and they all help me as needed to figure out how to help every horse so that I can do my job well and regain the horses trust and respect.
Kristin & Orion
“We can only learn from one another when we treat each other openly and with respect!”
Dressage can be compared to ballroom dancing. Similar to a dancing, every riding lesson and every exercise should be unique and new. There is not one moment in riding that can be exactly the same. Rider and horse are not always in the same mood. They encounter each other again and again at different points and it is always about finding the same rhythm. However, it doesn’t always happen that rider and horse find the same rhythm. Internal and external factors play important roles. It makes a difference whether both are relaxed or stressed, or in a known or unknown environment. Most importantly though, it has to do with the partnership between human and animal.
Whether riding or just being around a horse, human and horse should always maintain a dialogue. Successful communication requires rider’s experience and routine, wisdom and cleverness, empathy, inner peace and patience, good reactions, discipline, courage, persistence and consistency.
Riding is about cooperation. The rider doesn’t just mold the horse, the horse also molds the rider. Those interactions with horses are very meaningful to many riders. For me as a rider and trainer, it is an unbelievably beautiful feeling when human and horse find themselves in mental and physical balance and harmony with one another. Whether we have a friendly or professional relationship with a horse, they deserve that we value them and respect their personality.
The horse is neither a piece of sports equipment nor a substitute for a family member or a partner. It is an independent living being with species-specific needs and behavior.
Zen and the Art of Dressage
We all know that feeling… You’re ready for the big show. Your horse is tacked up and his main is braided. Your friends and family have come to watch you and there’s even someone there videotaping the event. Your heart is racing, your palms are sweaty, and all this pressure is making it hard for you to remember your test.
Stop…. Breathe…. Breathe again… You’ve got this!
If you find yourself suffering from intense anxiety prior to an important ride, use this simple set of tips to bring yourself back in the zone:
- Breathe: Yes, I know I said this earlier, but breathing is foundational. Slow, deep diaphragmatic breaths help to stretch the chest muscles, improve your posture, and calm your mind when you are stressed. Use the “4 Count” breathing method to optimize your breath…
- Breathe in slowly while counting to four.
- Hold your breath while counting to four again.
- Exhale to a four count.
- Count to four again before taking another breath.
- Stretch: Stretching before a ride will not only improve your posture, but can help your mind relax. Our brains take cues from our bodies, and tight muscles lead to stressed minds. Bend over and touch your toes. Pull your elbow across your chest with your opposite arm. Lean forward against a doorway and stretch your chest muscles. Taking time to care for your body leads to a calmer mind.
- Laugh: It might sound hokey, but laughing is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for an important ride. Deep belly laughs relax our diaphragm, give us a boost of endorphins (our bodies’ nature feel good chemicals), and help calm the parts of our brain that are overactive when we are stressed. Laughter is such a powerful anxiolytic that even psychologists prescribe it as a form of treatment generalized anxiety. Laughing helps us take ourselves less seriously so we can get on with the serious business of having fun at the show.
- (Pro-Tip: You might want to excuse yourself to a private place before trying this tip… People may look at you funny if you are doing the Santa Claus laugh in the warm-up arena).
These tips can be very helpful if you are preparing for a show ride and need a quick fix for your mental “freak-out”. They have saved me from pre-show panic and have helped me optimize my performance at competitions. They are not, however, a substitute for practice and preparation. If you can’t remember all the parts of your test, it may be because you are anxious…. or it may be because you didn’t do your homework. As Archilochus said:
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
Today’s the day! Our new Oldenburg foal “Tempty” arrived earlier this evening after his long road trip from Ocala, FL. A big thank you to Brookledge Transportation for taking good care of our baby and Judy Yancy from Yancy Farms for breeding such a beautiful horse.