I never got to interact with horses growing up, so for all I knew they were like any other pet– intriguing at first but tend to lose their shiny-new-toy sparkle as owners forget to invest relationally as life gets busy.
My interaction with horses started over a year ago when I had the opportunity to take my first horseback riding lessons for 6 weeks at a local farm near my house. During the class I learned how to brush, bridle, and saddle a horse. And, once on the horse, I learned how to stop and go, go faster, and move a little to the right or left. I enjoyed the class because it was new and fun. But now that I’m on staff at one of the best dude ranches in the West, and have taken a number of horse clinics in the new indoor arena, I realize in retrospect that my previous horse training was very superficicial. It taught me some of the mechanics of riding but nothing about horse itself or what I’m communicating to the horse with my body language.
I’m realizing now that horseback riding is as much about being relational with the horse and as it is about learning proper technique. Seeking to understand the personality and the stregnths & weeknesses of the horse being rode, while respecting how intelligent the horse actually is, allows the rider to effectively communicate what is required of the horse. When both rider and horse understand one another you not only get an enjoyable ride, but you also experience relationship, which triggers an unexpected sense of satification in both the horse and rider. The horse expresses this enjoyment by licking or smaking his lips together
a number of times.
I’ve only participated in 5 horse clinics now, and I’m not only having fun, I’m also thrilled with the understanding of what my body langauge is speaking to the horse which is allowing me to make the horse walk backward, spin in circles, walk sideways, and bring the horse to a sudden stop while in the middle of a canter. It’s all very exciting to me and I officially denounce my assumption about horses being like every other pet. They are most definitely not! They are very intriguing creatures who are extremely smart, sensitive, and extraordinarily relational if you take a little time to get to know them.
Last but not least, I’ve come to agree with our wranglers here: if you treat a horse like an emotionally sensitive woman you will go far with the horse and have and exceptional horseback riding vacation!