Part 1: Partnership, Clarity, and the Reflex To Relax
It takes years to develop the skills and abilities of an experienced master horseman. The good new is there are specific habits that you can implement starting right now, no matter what level you are. As soon as you use these habits you become a practicing horseman, not just someone practicing to someday become a horseman. These habits are true no matter what discipline or program you use. Your horse will immediately feel the difference.
These habits are what I call The 9 Habits For Excellent Horsemanship. Let’s look at three of them.
Lead with your heart and your horse will follow
Hopefully we are into horses because we love them. Our responsibility to them is tremendous. If we challenge or compete with them only out of ego, or with only the thought of using them, then they are slaves and will only give because they have to. If we approach them with love and give them a voice, they become a partner in the dance and just might offer you more than you could ever ask for.
In every moment with your horse, can you feel the love that made you start with horses in the first place?
Clarity comes from an intention that passes through a mind without judgment, a body without brace, and a heart that is open
Horses read intention and body language. Unfortunately we humans are often well-practiced in the art of disconnecting our feelings from our words and actions. This causes confusion in horses. They don’t know what to believe. This disconnect can happen when we worry too much about making mistakes, or when we don’t admit fears or when we aren’t aware of our physical imbalances. We create confusion when we pretend and especially when we tell ourselves we are ‘bad’ at something in the moment we are attempting it!
In every moment with your horse, can you fully embody the one clear picture of what you need your horse to know?
Reflex To Relax:
Everything comes from and returns to relaxation
We need to exhale exactly the same amount that we inhale. If we don’t, we just fill up with tension. If you are forced to hold your breath long enough you will panic. Like breathing, every challenge that we give our horse must be followed by an exhale; a relief from the tension.
Even more important is the ability to remain calm when challenges arise. Horsemen are able to keep an open focus and a thinking mind even when a horse is explosive. A high startle reflex may help horses survive in the wild, but it gets horses into trouble in our world. Excellent horsemen know that we must constantly prove to our horses that we are trustworthy, and that being curious will keep them safer than being afraid.
In every moment with your horse, are you trustworthy and calm?
To take Karen’s step-by-step course called: Habits For Excellent Horsemanship go to: do.dressagenaturally.net/heh
Karen Rohlf, creator of the Dressage Naturally program, is an internationally recognized clinician who is changing the equestrian educational paradigm. She is well known for doing dressage with a priority of partnership, her student-empowering approach to teaching, her virtual courses, and her positive and balanced point of view. Dressagenaturally.net.
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photo of Karen Rohlf by Dana Rasmussen