Does the picture touches you? This picture shows CONNECTION.
Well, that moment was very special for me and my Paint Horse mare SUNNY back in Germany. She purely engaged with me ( look at her face...) and I was fully PRESENT with her ( and my coffee...:)).
How can that happen? And how can that happen to YOU and your horse as well?
Well, Sunny was my first "own" horse after I have been ridden and cared for other peoples horses for years.
Because that was so special and I got her as a foal I spend lots of time just hanging out with her.
I even did that, when she became older and I was already riding her.
So, I visited her and her mates in her paddock, sat down and just watched her what she was doing.
Next time, I took a book with me and was just reading, while with her. No plans or expectation when I visited her.
I just wanted to be with her and I was curious what she was doing through the day. One time, she even laid down next to me, put her head onto my lap and fell asleep. Her snoring was VERY cute :)
WOW what a gift from my horse to me! I can tell you, my legs were aching after a while BUT I did not move. It was such a touching moment!
Every time I spent time in her paddock, SHE engaged with ME, although she had her mates there and I did not give her any treats to make her come to me. I was just PRESENT, and she knew.
We developed a very strong bond over the years, which was awesome.
So why does CONNECTION changes your horses behaviour to a positive respond to teaching and training ?
Connection happens when you built up a positive relationship with your horse. That happens before you even start actively training/riding your horse. It is the FOUNDATION for learning, successful training and in the end for a good and safe performance with a happy horse.
The science behind it, is the function of the nervous system, especially the vagus nerve ( the study about it is called Polyvagal Theory). It is part of the autonomic nervous system, present in all mammals. If you want to know more details and dig deeper into the science have a look here:
Horseman Warwick Schiller applies this knowledge into his way of training. See a YouTube video here:
The Vagus nerve is kind of the super highway between the gut, heart and brain. It is the social engagement system. We know that horses are social animals, living in a group or herd to guarantee their survival against predators in the wild. They survive, because the herd or group members are PRESENT in the moment and aware what's going on. That makes the herd feels safe and relaxed. So, on the body function side of it, everything is slowed down ( heart rate, digestion,...) and the horse is in a relaxed state.
That changes, as soon as they don't feel safe anymore. They are more alert, tensed and ready to either fight or flight. Even the domesticated horses still have that instinct within them.
So, what can you do to make your horse feel safe and built up a CONNECTION?
We know the basic stuff, we need to meet the basic horses needs such as food, shelter, space, fresh air, water and companions.
BUT the other part to make them feel safe is when are felt seen, heard, felt and gotten. Means: When they notice that we notice their worries, concerns etc. and give them time to adjust. Because then , they know WE ARE PRESENT and AWARE and they can feel safe. And we are safe too, because we notice signs of facial expressions, tension in the body and body language much earlier when we are present with the horse, not thinking about dinner, work or the kids.
The 5 simple ways of making your horse feeling seen, heard etc. and built a connection are:
If this is new for you, try it, explore the world of your horse from the ground and develop a strong bond. Its worth it and you will notice the difference in the behaviour when they feel SAFE and SEEN.
If you have other ideas or great experiences please share them here in the comments. Like always, if you want to know more, or need some help with how to become present, contact me.
In the next Blog I will write about BECOMING more PRESENT and AWARE with your horse to avoid misunderstandings and danger in training/riding/handling.
If you have questions about that, please message me. Always happy to help!
For the horses!!
Britta Bruns, Invercargill