Ground Work: Part 3
July 3, 2020
Your Energy Will Move Those Feet as long as you know how to direct that energy.
Remember, first they’re looking to be able to trust and then they’ll follow you. You know that saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink?” There is a lot of truth in that statement. The more I think about it the more I see in that statement.
If your horse trusts you and sees you as their leader, [these two things are closely linked and not mutually exclusive], then the next logical thing to happen is for him/her to do what you’re asking of them. If they’re standing there looking at you like you’ve just grown a second head there’s a pretty good chance they haven’t got a clue what you’re attempting to communicate. Its at this very point that sometimes the human becomes frustrated. We stop thinking and become emotional. Much like a toddler that can’t understand why the square peg won’t go into the round hole.
I know what you’re thinking… I must be one of those new age hippies that is suggesting you get in touch with your inner horse. Nope! not at all. Anytime you enter the field or walk through a door to your horses stall you bring a certain energy with you. It can be positive or negative. In plain, simple terms you can be Sister Mary Sunshine or a dark cloud full of misery. One will light up the room and the other will make those in the room want to avoid you. Either of those or something in between is felt by both humans and horses alike.
Something I’ve experienced being around horses is this: They live in the moment. Since you’ve chosen to be part of their world, you also must learn to do the same. Neglect this bit of wisdom and you will totally miss out on one of the greatest gifts they have to offer us humans.
Horses primarily communicate using body language and they’re talking to others, including us, constantly. Once I wrapped my head around this truth I started using hand signals to convey what I wanted. If I wanted my horse to come to me I’d place my hand at my side away from my hip palm out facing them and gently pull on the lead rope to get their feet moving toward me.
When they got to me I’d make a great big deal about it. Rubbing, stroking and giving a scratch in their favorite itchy spot. It may sound simple or stupid, but its extremely effective. I use something similar when lounging my horse, or any horse for that matter, to indicate direction and energy by pointing with my finger, hand, and arm in the direction I want them to go. They do catch on quick! The best place to practice this is in the round pen.
Working with both our horses and any other I may work with, this was/is the first hand signal I show them. At the very beginning I learned that making myself smaller lowered the amount of energy I was projecting while lounging our horse. This caused them to slow down to a walk. By soothingly saying whoa I was able to stop them with little effort. I was amazed at how easy it was. I also noticed that while lounging the higher I held my arms the faster they would go.
The logical conclusion was I was raising and lowering my energy level using my arms and how tall I was making myself. Jody would later tell me I was making myself bigger and bringing my energy level up. All of a sudden I realized I was communicating with my horse without saying a word, cracking a whip or anything else. As I’d lower my arms things would calm down. Imagine that! Now, don’t get me wrong… this takes practice and in most cases doesn’t happen over night. But it cemented in my mind a foundation for non-verbal communication. The sky became the limit. Anything I could imagine became possible.
This technique didn’t work over night with Belle. She’s definitely got a mind of her own. She’s very, very intelligent and because of that she tests everything. Sometimes to see if we’re really serious about it and other times simply because she may not feel like it at the time. At times like that it all boils down to who is the leader in charge? When she is giving me the business I know that if I”m moving her feet I am in charge. Any time I move her feet rather than she moving mine I Am In Charge. She knows it too.
During those times there are no arguments, harsh words spoken or tempers lost. Whoever moves the others’ feet first is leader.~Mark Weaver
If you're willing to learn there are many teachers. Not all of them are human!