In this Context, I see the perfect moment to bring up Eye Contact

I talk a lot about trying as much as possible to keep things in context for Horses. What do I mean by that? It means that horses don’t just do things for the sake of doing them. They do them with intention and purpose. For example, a horse will only move another horse because he wants to communicate something. He is not practicing moving the other horse. There is always a rhyme or reason.

When I am training horses, I try to keep things in context by doing them in real time and working with situations which are directly in front of me in the moment. It even works with more advanced exercises. Let’s take an easy example. My horse is in my personal space a bit too much. If I ask him to back up a certain distance and halt. This Communication has Intention, Meaning and Clarity to the horse. I didn’t move him just to see if i could. I moved him because I feel safer with him a little bit farther away. He will not take that personally because he sees there’s a reason for the request. You see what I am getting at?

While working with the young Mare Electra. I noticed she was very oral and liked to chew on things. I gently communicated what I thought was ok to play with (hula hoops, barrels and she loves tarps!) and redirected her away from things I’d prefer her not to chew. She understands now which things are ok to put her mouth on and which things are not. She is young and she will like to inspect things out of curiosity which I want her to freely express. At first, she was unsure of the video camera and then became very interested in it. Using the context of wanting to show her it was my territory but I wanted her to be able to inspect it gently (and not damage it) I allowed her to come in with her nose but not to push it or get it wet. In this interaction, There was context. I was communicating that this object was mine and how I would like it to be treated without deterring her curiosity. This is a very important balance.

Food exercises will bring up Context immediately with most horses. You have it or another horse does and they want it. It is the way I build quick rapport with horses if i have the opportunity, when I have very little time to do so. 

In more advanced exercises, Patterns and Intention set the Context. For example, If I carefully visualize and focus on a specific shape (a square), at a specific speed (a walk), at a specific symmetry (in shoulder in) ( I know that’s a lot but I said more advanced! :)) I have given my horse a clear context for what the objective is. As opposed to thinking things like “I really wish my horse would put his head down” “Why isn’t he responding to my cues?” “I must not be doing it right” None of these provide context. This does “Let’s make a Square” “The square is exactly this big” “Let’s do it in this gait” “In this shape” And remember, This is not about the doing and perfection, It is about the Conversation that comes up when we create the Context. That is the fun discovery part if you let go of expectation and needing it to be perfect right away. The shape pattern gives you a purpose and you use it to guide the conversation without judgement.

I brought this up because it is very important to our daily practice and how we avoid what feels like drilling to our horses. I also always say if I need to practice something for my own understanding a few more times, I explain to my horse, It’s for me to learn not for you, you are doing fine! And I thank them for having patience with my learning process. Oats for thought.
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  • Jayne Forster

    Brilliant,thanks Farah,this came up for me also I was worried that maybe it felt like drilling to Noo noo when I wanted to practice the shoulder in position into trot,I did it from the ground,I found myself telling her that it was a good idea as it would help both of us with riding it,so I had a purpose and do you know she tried really hard!I just never thought of it how you have just explained. really great thanks.

    • Farah DeJohnette Horsemanship

      Hi Jayne! Thanks for your comment :) It is very good to think this way! I would love you to think about some Virtual Coach appointments for you and Noo Noo because I was thinking of so many fun exercises for you two after we did our private. Exercises that would move you to the next level :)