Let's talk about communication between horse and rider ….
Most people think riding their horse means, they ride, and the horse complies.
Time in the saddle is the same as time on the ground, your communication with your horse sets the stage for how successful your relationship will be, and this pertains to people just as it does with your horse!
I just watched a video of a very well-known trainer teaching and this got me thinking about communication and how I like to teach my clients.
The rider in the video obviously was missing some core basics communication skills in her riding which I felt the trainer was ignoring. It was very difficult to watch them just working on the "tricks" rather than helping improve their balance, thoroughness, and communication with each other.
It was hard to watch because it becomes just 2 bodies moving in space very awkwardly and braced rather than 2 bodies moving in unison... which is what it MUST be.
There are expectations in the sport of dressage, and it is natural to see something you don't like and to make a judgment call. However, it takes a special skill to see what is good and what is lacking with a horse/rider and what is lost in the communication.
How does your horse like you to communicate with them... are they sensitive, reserved, sassy or attentive?
Do you feel like you can whisper your questions, or do you have to yell sometimes?
I see many similarities with how a client communicates with their horse on the ground and with other people, and how this translates into their communication when riding. I personally always want to know what a client does for a living, what type of work they do. This says a lot about their personality and likes and dislikes.
For example, the non-horsey jobs I've had in the past that I enjoyed were in customer service.... being a 911 operator, and a clerk in our local Court House. I do have a Criminal Justice degree, so I tend to like order and procedures... which happens to drive my husband nuts!!
Working at 911 can be challenging... Being able to take active distress calls, while talking on the radio and relaying pertinent information to law enforcement and my coworkers.
This is so much like riding!
We must have a system when we mount a horse. We must be able to simultaneously use many independent aids to convey to our horses the questions we are asking them.
These "questions" must be clear, concise, and understood.
The level of the horse and rider dictates their ability to "multitask".
As a trainer I use the "what, how and why" as well as the "how long, how strong, how often” in everything I ask a horse.
Remember the horse is an instant mirror to us. So, if they are not giving you the answer you want... you need to ask if you are asking the right question or do you need to ask differently so they understand.
Always evaluate your position and aids!
Can you progress if you don't have the correct foundation?
Do you have a clear system when riding?
Does your horse know what to expect?
How do you connect with your horse before riding? Do you just groom, tack up and get on and then demand they listen to you?
It's very important to allow your horse to have input, to open the dialogue of conversation prior to mounting... This is a relationship we are building daily!
Do you let them have a minute in the arena, to walk around and settle and be able to take a deep breath and get a soft eye and connect to you? If we are in a hurry and just do things to them and expect things from them, they will feel like an object and not your partner.
Please put the horse first, think about how you would like your relationship to be, how you would like your communication to flow, have a system, be clear, fair, and relaxed!