Saturday, January 12, 2013

Communication Builds Relationships

We've been talking about communication concepts and strategies. In this post I would like to talk about the relationship side of communication.

Everyone knows, you can't have a good relationship without good communication. Communication is the basis and foundation of a relationship. If you have been in a quality relationship for any length of time, you have probably experienced  the ability to finish their sentences. You may know what they want before they ask for it.

When a relationship is built on communication, it becomes very strong. If the relationship is solid, soon enough communication becomes very subtle. You just know. It may start with an assumption or a feeling that ends up being verified. Then soon enough you are very confident that you know exactly how they will react in a certain situation. When you have good communication and a strong relationship you end up with a heightened awareness.

The relationship part of communicating with horses is so important. A horse is a social animal. This is why they live in herds. They need to know and trust your every move and intention. When intention isn't clear it can cause fear and anxiety. The better you know your horse, and your horse knows you, the stronger the relationship becomes.

I mentioned in the last post how 2 people can use the same cue on the same horse and would work for one and not at all for the next. This happens because the horse understands and trusts the intention of the one person and doesn't trust the other. It's mostly due to a relationship conflict. You may have experienced this in your everyday life with humans. Someone has no problem doing something when one person asks but won't do anything at all for someone else. Or an idea would be considered if this one suggested it but would be totally ignored if someone else did. It's all about trusting the source. Horses and people are very much the same when it comes to this kind of thing.

Horses are not all that complicated. They understand intention most of all. We make most of our mistakes by coming in and trying to hard to not make them nervous, or we are not paying enough attention to the details of our expectations. Most of the time that shows an unclear intention which in turn makes them nervous. If we come in and just do what it is we came to do with confidence and the attitude that its no big deal, then most of the time they just go along. Of course the better the relationship and trust is, and the clearer you can be with your intention, the less likely they will be bothered  by it.

It is so important to get to know your horse. Getting to know them and not make excuses for them. Some of us allow our horses to act out in certain situations. Justifying it with,"Oh he is afraid of the bag." Instead we should show them how we intend them to respond in any situation, and not allow any excuse. In this way we improve our relationship and communication. It builds trust and a better understanding. We also prove that we understand their emotional needs. Being aware of and being able to respond to their emotional needs is something I can't stress the importance of enough. We cannot desensitize them to everything they will be scared of, but we can show them that if they just look to us for help we can get them through it. That is huge for building a relationship.  You really need that in your relationship with your horse. If you don't have it, your not safe being around them, or on their back.

In our next post we will talk about Failing to Communicate Intention, and how to be more aware of the things we may be missing. Thanks for reading along.


  1. I have a mare that can be very emotional. (This post definitely made me think of her.) Once she gets ramped up it is difficult to cool her down. I think the crux of our problem is that she doesn't always see me as the leader. I have ridden her and she is enjoyable on trails however I'm thinking we need to do more ground work together? What might be some good, simple ground work exercises I can do with Lace to work on our relationship? (I know that evaluating her in person would allow you to give me specifics, but any good starting points I can work on?)


    1. We posted about "Starting the Conversation" in that post there is a description in brief how I start with attaining leadership. The key is to remember all of the principals while you work. It is best to do these exercises in a small pasture or round pen, but can be done in a large field. Start out in front of the horse. Think of turning yourself into a magnet. and draw your horses attention to you. If they turn left, go right. If they turn right, go left. Try not to close the distance between you and your horse. Increasing the distance will help you draw them toward you. If the distance is closed let it be the horse coming to you that does it. This is a great exercise to do on days when you just don't have the energy for harder work. It can be a great soothing meditative type exercise, and have a calming effect on you and your horse. We will be covering this topic in our next "Attention and Awareness" post. Should be published by Saturday, January, 19th