|Last week I played with a Fjord named Sonja|
Sorry for the missed blog post last week but I was off at clinics and intensives. I had a lot of fun with new people and their horses. As usual, my 4 legged assistants were outstanding!
This week I wanted to talk about Patterns. Not the patterns we use to train with. But the patterns of behavior we have and aren’t aware of. Why is this important? Because our horses are 100% aware of our patterns and adapt to them for good or bad. In other words our horses can train us without us even knowing it.
Often when I go to work with a horse and person, The first thing I look at is the person’s patterns. I look at their energy, their body language, and their rhythm. I then look at their horses reactions to their patterns. I need to get a base line of what is working and not working in the relationship by what patterns are set between the horse and person. We can get into this cycle with our horses without even knowing how we got to them. Horses are so observant of our energy and habits, they know us better then we know ourselves sometimes.
Horses can get into a set behavior pattern because of our patterns. A great example of this is when a school horse learns to adapt to different riders and handlers. With one rider he will perform nicely and with another one he will be quite difficult. Horses that are handled by different people are masters of sizing us up quickly.
One of the things I learn when I teach Liberty classes is that I can watch several people perform the same exercises and see the patterns of their energy without judgement. I can quickly pick up on where they are most likely stuck with their own horses by watching them work with a different horse.
Sometimes people don’t understand or see the value in why they would take a Liberty class with a horse nobody has worked with before and not your own horse. I have several reasons.
- When we work with a strange horse we have no expectations because he is not our own.
- We learn what the proper “neutral” non needy mindset is for our own horses by working with a strange horse.
- We have no preexisting patterns with this horse so we have a “clean slate” relationship.
- We can see how you can build connection with any horse from scratch.
- You can learn with real time, real life reactions.
- You can simulate herd dynamic and integration with several other “human” herd members and the participating horse.
- We can learn by watching other peoples patterns.
I have an awareness exercise for you to try. Next time you go to your horse, pay really close attention to your daily patterns or rituals. Notice the positive ones and the ones that actually may be promoting a behavior you don’t care for. If you are happy with all your habits, good for you! Think about your dog if you own one. All our dogs know when are going out the door and when it’s for a walk or a trip.
I have a story from my younger days when I was little and I had my Saddlebred. I was just learning and I didn’t have much experience with horses, Just a fierce love and desire and boundless courage. I got this horse with my instructor and set about working with him. I used to lunge him because he was very energetic. I used to do the same pattern every time. Walk, then trot, then canter. Day after day. I did not know to do anything else at the time. One day my instructor came out and said “why don’t you change up you lunging routine a bit” so eager to learn, I tried doing things in a different order. My horse went nuts! He was so used to my routine it actually upset him when I changed it. I had know idea how much of a stuck pattern we were in. My instructor however, had been thankfully keeping an eye on me.
Now a days, This is not a problem so much for me, but I do like to work with a coach so that there are fresh eyes on me and my horses. It took fresh eyes to help me with some things with Mercury that I was not seeing. That is why I always work with someone when I can. Otherwise known as a ground person.
Even if you don’t have a more experienced person around to watch you, you can have a friend or family member watch you and ask them if they see and patterns or habits. They can effect your handling and riding without you even knowing. Oats for thought.
5/12 FDH 1 day Playshop and Demo at Windhorse International, CT
5/25-26 FDH 2 day clinic in Greenville, NY
6/21-23 FDH UK Clinic at The New Horse, Motcombe, UK