My dearest friend and mentor often used to say, “Be a light-house for your horse” and I thought that some of you might enjoy pondering that idea. ?
I heard her use this phrase when she was helping people with their riding, but it can be applied to other aspects of horsemanship too. Being in the human world poses huge challenges for most horses, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Studies have shown that horses can be experiencing high levels of stress without any obvious outwards signs.
If a light-house were to jump into to the sea in order to assist passing ships, it would instantly become useless, and the same is true for the human who loses their balance, mentally or physically, when the horse loses theirs.
I know that those of you reading this care very deeply for your horses, and that you are empathetic and sensitive people, so you are likely to be inclined to ‘rush to the horse’s aid’ any time he or she wobbles. Of course, there are times when this is absolutely the right thing to do, like if the horse is caught in something or needs to the vet. However, at other times, it is better for the horse if you can be a light-house for him instead in the following ways:
- Work on your own physical balance, both off and on the horse, so that when riding, you can maintain your balance (left to right, and forwards and back), even when your horse loses his. That way you can help him a) not to fall so far out of balance and b) to regain his balance. Otherwise, you just amplify his imbalance and make things harder for him.
- Work on your own mental balance. Take time to nurture a sense of calm within yourself. Having a super-busy life myself, I can fully understand how challenging that suggestion may seem, but if you start looking for any brief moments to stop and just breathe, even just for a few seconds, you will actually find more and more opportunities to do just that. And then the feeling will start to become more familiar, and the calm will become easier and easier to find.
In the beginning, the only chance you may seem to get is when you are sitting on the loo! Or standing waiting for an elevator, but that’s ok. (If you are really up for a challenge, try converting the time you are forced to spend sitting in traffic by having some relaxing music to play to yourself, and thinking about how practicing calm will be of great benefit to your dear horse as you sit there!).
The calmer you can be on the inside, the better equipped you will be to help soothe the horse in challenging situations. There may be the odd situation which causes your heart to leap, and you may even have to fake your calmness for a short time in an extreme situation*, but if you have practiced ways of soothing and stabilising yourself, your ‘faking it’ will be more believable to the horse, and true calm will follow much faster.
Even if you consider yourself to be a calm person, there’s usually room for developing it further. The calmer the mind is, the easier it can focus (it can be very troubling for a horse when his human’s mind is scattered or overwhelmed). A calm mind is also much more likely to experience inspiration and insight, so it will help your training on all sorts of levels with your horses.
- Have a very clear vision of what you are trying to do, and have a plan for achieving it. You can always amend plans, but it is important to have them. It can be hard, after a long day at work, or with the family, to start work with your horse with a clear mind and good focus. However, it’s better to shorten your riding time by 5 minutes and take 5 minutes out at the beginning of your session to breathe and focus and develop a clear picture of what you are aiming forbeforegetting up on the horse, rather than leaping on and hoping for the best. Sometimes riders can feel pressure to ‘exercise’ or ‘work’ their horses, but on every level, and certainly from the horse’s point of view, quality is far more important that quantity. If your foundations are ‘shaky’, it will dramatically hinder what you are able to achieve together both long and short-term.
I hope this helps. Please let me know what you think of these musings and if there’s anything you’d like to chat further about regarding it, just ask! I will do my best to help you ?
My very, very best wishes to you and all of the horses in your life,
* When I say ‘faking it’, I do not mean that you should ignore your inner guidance system. If you haven’t already read it, take a look at the ‘Confidence with Horses’ article stored in The Horse’s Voice Community group files for more information about this. It is very important to listen to you ‘gut’ and not venture into situations that you know deep down are a bad idea. What I am referring to here is the odd situation where something happens that is beyond your control, for example, someone else’s horse breaks free and comes galloping towards you, or you discover a horse with a nasty injury that is distressing to deal with.
**Please remember that this article has not been created to be specific to any individual’s or organizations’ situation or needs. It should serve only as a general guide; it is a sharing of ideas and is not intended as the ultimate source of subject information. Keren Morris shall have no liability or responsibility to any person or entity regarding any loss or damage incurred, or alleged to have incurred, directly or indirectly, by the information contained in this article.
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