When living in a herd, a horse’s natural state is one of centredness, of being in the moment. In a centred partnership, we naturally want to recreate that in our herd of two. Horses respond in two primary ways to what their emotions tell them about the minutiae of their surroundings. They are acutely tuned into detail whether visible or not, with feelings of safety or of fear.
Frailty of indecision can affect us all. Sometimes fear of what the horse might be about to do sends us into temporary paralysis and we do nothing. There is a difference between waiting for something to happen with bated breath and sitting quietly remembering to breathe. It nearly always shows up in the way our horse reacts or if he reacts at all. When our minds are busy, distracted by fear or excitement, we are not receptive to making appropriate decisions. It’s the same for our horses who are wired to run, spin, or shy first and think later.
The reality of modern life means we end up spending time with our horses in a completely unsuitable frame of mind for achieving what we want when riding them. It’s almost as if our days are lived against the clock. It’s not unusual to arrive at the yard already stressed with our heads full of mental lists of must do’s. Rather than taking the time to release tension in our bodies through correct breathing etc, we grab a head collar and sprint into the field, leading our horse in as swiftly as possible. Grooming and tacking up is done on the run in case someone wants to use the school. Besides, it will be dark in less than an hour and we need to get back to all those other commitments.
Horses find this stressful too. Like environmental responses, they deal with it in two ways: They self protect by switching off and sadly are often labelled lazy or unresponsive. In fact they are very sensitive but keep it hidden using this as a coping strategy to survive the turbulence of hectic yards and busy schedules. Those who choose not to escape by switching off are very switched on, restless pushy, and unwilling to stand still. Since horses reflect what they pick up in us, if we are in a hurry and our stress levels high, theirs will be too. We need time for quiet reflection to recognise that it is our responsibility to control not only our body but our mind as well. Our horses will only be able to experience centredness in our herd of two when we present a reflection of calmness to them. To make sure the horse is able to make changes, all are regularly checked and treated for any pre-existing condition causing pain or discomfort.