Attention and Awareness was covered in brief in two of our earlier posts, "Alphabets of Communication" and "Starting the Conversation." We will go more in depth about these two very important principals here in this post.
Attention is said to mean; 1 mental concentration or readiness 2 notice or observation 3 care or consideration 4 an act of courtesy or devotion 5 the erect posture of soldiers ready for a command.
Awareness is said to mean; knowing; realizing; conscious
As you can see the two words go hand in hand. You can't be aware if your not paying attention. Also if you don't have your horses attention, they won't be aware of your intention.
Attention to detail is the key to success no matter what you do. From making shoes to building beautiful buildings, or art work. When it comes to communication, attention is a key element for both parties. If you are communicating something to someone or your horse, you want to make sure you have their attention in order for them to fully understand you. Attention and focus is so important.
When I was married to my ex-wife she had 2 boys. One of them was having trouble in school and the school wanted him on medication for his lack of paying attention. I refused to go that root. I took him home and taught him to meditate for 5 minutes a day. After a few weeks of this his school work improved. By his next report card he was on the honor roll and stayed there throughout his remaining school years. Now he is a Machinist making parts with .005th of and inch or less tolerances. I gave this example because it is something I see in our human world and in our equine world. Lack of focus will not allow you to pay attention. People ask me how I can get such good progress with a horse in such a short time? I tell them,"I get their attention so they understand what it is I am asking of them and I make my intention very clear." If they're paying attention and you have their respect, then your intention becomes clearer.
Most of us can tell if we have our horses attention or not. At the same time many of us are unaware of how well a real attentive horse can perform. If you have ever, or if you ever, get a chance to ride or work with a horse that is very well focused and not easily distracted. You will absolutely want your horse to be like that. It is attainable for every horse. Being aware of what to look for can help. If your horse is acting nervous and scared, looking all around. Then they are not being attentive. We get their attention with exercises that make them want to focus on us and the task we are asking them to do. Always insisting on their focus and rewarding them for doing so. When we teach them to focus we give them better understanding. This in turn takes away their anxiety. The better they learn to focus, the better they behave emotionally. A solid relationship is built this way, as long as its all respectful.
Being aware of everything and being able to respond to it in a reasonable manner is important as well. We need to be aware of our horses emotions and whats happening around us. If our horse is more interested in or nervous about something else. We need to make ourselves a bit more interesting to them. There are a number of ways to do this, but in brief, some extra movement on our part, keep asking them to continue doing whatever it is we are doing at the time, or transition into something else. Any of these can get their attention. You can also ad some light rein or lead pressure, or leg pressure during some riding exercises. Rewarding with a relies when you get a try. Remember to always hold them to a higher standard a little at a time for the next relies. Proper evaluation will help you make the best choice for that particular situation. We will cover many of these in future posts. I will mention that I prefer to use implied or assumed pressure first. Using direct pressure, as in pulling on the lead or reins only if they do not respond. This will help your horse to think more and focus on your intention.
Our next post will cover "Getting Their Attention" and some detailed information on how I start with a horse that is entering one of my programs.
Thank you for reading along with us. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful.