For over a year now, Storm has been giving me horsey lessons and I’ve learnt heaps! I’ve learnt
- How horses perceive tension on the lead rope
- What it means to be fully present with my horse
- How much is too much and
- how to instruct vs. fight
Learning to read Storm has probably been the most important lesson I’ve learnt since bringing him home. It’s like in any relationship – if you know how to read your partner’s feelings you can respond more appropriately. The grandest part of living with horses is that they can teach us how to read them.
But I think the horse/human relationship can be taken farther than that. Mutuality and wellbeing can be achieved by helping them to read us!
So for Christmas, I have begun to give Storm the tools he needs to live happily in my environment. In order to remain playful, safe, and exuberant, Storm is learning how to read me! P.s. Enjoy the pictures! They were taken this morning!
Let him teach me first.
Many programs begin with giving the horse ‘human lessons’. In a working environment where horses are a main mode of transportation and work, this is grimly necessary. However, there are ways to begin a working relationship where your horse can feel he is communicating with you before you start communicating with him. Oftentimes, the horse will naturally begin taking human cues once he feels like he has been fully understood.
Some things that I like to do before I start Storm’s ‘human lesson’ are lunging at liberty, loose line leading, and meditation. This gives him a chance to teach me a few things before I put the halter on and teach him.
Bring his head around.
If Storm is connected enough, bringing his head around to my belly button should make perfect sense to him and will be rewarding. I’m happy with small responses at first. This isn’t about learning how to bend his head – this is about getting used to yielding when he feels the pull on his halter. If he is connected to begin with, the yield will come naturally to him. No teaching necessary.
Something that I’ve found helpful is to touch the girth-line to encourage his nose to come around. This is a totally natural way of triggering the bend (like pressing the inside of your wrist to make your fingers curl!) This even translates over to riding and leg yields.
Backing up at close range.
This is a REALLY helpful skill for Storm to know, because every Fjord owner knows that you’re not going to survive long if that Fjord doesn’t know how to back away. Again, I must be happy with small responses. If my preparation was thorough enough, I will receive no resistance. If Storm has practiced giving me space at liberty, when I ask him for space online, he won’t be offended.
Lowering Storm’s head.
Again, when Storm is connected all of these little yields make sense to him. They generally do. If you find yourself having to yank and jerk, then you know something is missing in the foundation connection and respect. If extreme measures are necessary when applying pressure via the halter, rethink your horse’s level of connection and experience and backtrack. When it’s ready for picking, it will come falling off the tree like ripened fruit.
These are just a few of the things on Storm’s Christmas list of ‘human lessons’. You can make your own list of things that your horse should learn about you using the techniques described here.
Remember that you are both mutually in this relationship. You’ve both got important teacher roles to fill.