‘Feel’, above all, comes from our hearts, our breaths, our softness and our tension, we should ‘feel’ with every atom of our body.
‘Direction’ comes from our body language.
Our hands… well, they should just be the very fine tuning in the equine/human duet. But, sadly, we have learnt to completely ‘control’ our horses with our hands.
No matter how ‘good’ we think our hands are, most of us have no idea of what we are actually saying to our horses, or what our horses are saying to us! In fact most of us actually ‘block’ our feeling and connection by overriding (with our hands) our horses natural responses to what the heck our bodies are doing up there!
To explore this thought, nine brave and lovely ladies from Stratford Riding Club, on their very special horses, practiced riding today, without their reins!
The idea was not to ‘direct’ so much as to experiment with voice and body language, and ‘feel’ the response. The ladies rode with absolutely no rein contact, holding the buckle end, but they did have the use of a neck strap if needed, with the aim of making that aid lighter and eventually not needing it at all.
By starting with the riders desire to go from walk to halt, we realized how much we use our hands for this simple request… the horses kept walking round quite happily ignoring their frustrated riders, as the temptation was to keep asking for halt in the same way!
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” Henry Ford
So the ladies tried different body language, changing their balance and alignment (I will blog on alignment soon, but also see mary-wanless.com), becoming more aware of, and changing, their breathing. Some of the ladies practiced ‘heart breathing’ (see HeartMath.com) tapping into their intuitive self, and by creating a feeling of mindfulness, and being ‘in the now’, they felt even more ‘connected’ with their newly responsive equines.
This is truly about finding a better way to communicate with our horses, but to do it we have to create a whole new language (Robinson Crusoe meets Man Friday), listen to what the horses say, allow them to respond to what we say, reward those responses, and endeavor to understanding them.
Once we had an understanding about walk to halt, we went on to see how we could interact with our horses for them to understand that we would like to change direction, turn and circle. The ladies took their focus to where they wanted to go, by doing this they subtly changed their body language, and the horses subtly changed their direction!
By the end of the sessions, all the combinations were easily going between walk and halt, most were going happily from trot through to walk and halt, and 6 of the 9 cantered round in both directions, without reins in the canter or the transition to the trot. Without exception all the horses looked more relaxed, forward going… and happy :O)
I do this ‘work’ with my gorgeous young horse Remi, but this is the first time that I have asked a group of riders to ride without their reins, and the results were even better than I expected. All the ladies picked up the challenge and ran with it… I am SO pleased.
This is my first blog… I am a blog virgin! So I am not entirely sure how this all works, but I hope that the riders will have somewhere to share their feelings about their experience today.
Photo: My dear friend Loulou riding Gucci bridleless.