Saturday, January 26, 2013

Working With Emotions

We have discussed Emotions in many of our earlier posts. In this post I would like to talk more in detail about this very important topic.

A horse is an extremely emotional animal. When we are around them we need to be aware of this. We must also be aware of our emotions. Our emotions affect theirs. Many people aren't aware that we can control a horses emotions. If we stay calm and relaxed, they will stay calm and relaxed. In order for this to work we need to have their attention and their trust. Without having both of these in place, they are more emotional when they are with us then they are when they're turned out on their own.

Being aware of their emotions and knowing what to look for will help. Its important to recognize what their emotional state is before you can do anything about it. Being a prey animal, they instinctively think everything is out to get them. I've heard it said that a horse is only afraid of 2 things. Things that move and things that stay still. This translates into everything. It amazes me how some horses are fine with things they should be afraid of and go nuts over things that shouldn't bother them at all. So for this reason alone we need to gain control over their emotions so we don't end up an equine statistic.

When I first start working with a horse, I like to always be saying to them, in one way or another,"Don't worry about anything, I got this."  It needs to be done in a way that its, A Matter of Fact. Not in a way of, Easy, its ok, don't worry, easy, easy, and you find yourself moving real slow and creeping around your horse. This behavior will for sure make them nervous. Remember, we are supposed to be the strong one in the relationship. If we don't show confidence, they will worry.

 Here we have a series of photos that shows some emotion being relieved. To the left we see hesitation and to the right we see that when he went he went quick. his nerves got the best of him.

 After a few times going through, allowing him freedom of choice and guidance he started to relax. you can see it in his posture. To the left still going a little fast, to the right he is keeping with me pretty well. The last photo bottom left he is very relaxed.

As I go along in the training, I am always aware of and evaluating their emotions. Its not just about asking them to do something. Its about communicating to them that we would like them to do something in a specific way, confidently and respectfully. When you first start just a step in the right direction is good for a pause and a reward. Each time you should wait for just that little bit better response before you pause and reward. You will be amazed at how much progress you can make in just 10 or 15 minutes. Always have a finished goal in mind. This should be moving responsively with as light a pressure as possible,  continuing until asked to stop or transition into something else. We should also be looking for a more relaxed and supple posture, not feeling any resistance from them in any way. Now this is the end result. True perfection is never attained. We must always be looking for the things we need to improve on. Being aware of the emotions will help you attain this much faster.

So, how do we deal with emotions? Here are a few examples of what I do in certain situations. If I am asking a horse to do something and I notice some apprehension, I will just keep asking, slowly increasing pressure until I get a try, then I release. always looking back at myself to make sure I am being clear with my intention. I don't want to push harder and raise emotion if the reason is, my body language isn't clear. Sometimes its hard to remember to evaluate yourself, but we must get into the habit. If we don't, we tend to blame the horse for our mistakes. You won't get trust and relieve emotion like that. Another example I can give is, if I am riding or leading a horse somewhere and something startles the horse or has them a bit on edge. I  ask the horse to turn and face whatever it is that is causing the issue. This helps them learn to face their fears. I will just ask them to stand and look at it until they show me they are starting to except it. Then we walk away. If it is something that has really got them a mess, I will stay longer and get them to approach it (if its safe to do so) and really learn to except it. Every time you do things like this, you are showing them that you are in tune with their emotions, letting them know you understand their emotional needs.It also proves to them that you know what is worth being scared of and what isn't. This helps so much to relieve their anxiety, and get them to put all their trust in us.

Another thing you may want to keep in mind. Transitions, whether they are speed or direction changes, can raise a horses emotions. Many people can't get through a simple walk to a trot transition. Even more have trouble getting into a canter. The reason for this is instinct most of the time. Instinct tells a horse if the herd needs to go fast then we need to get away from whatever is coming to get us. We need to teach them that nothing is coming to get us, we just want to go a bit faster. A herd of horses are naturally lazy. They would much rather stand around and graze all day. If the herd is moving quick their emotions go into survival mode.
Another reason for not responding could be, the horse is lazy, or we are not balanced and in tune with them causing restriction. If this is the case our riding skills need to fixed before moving on. If we are inhibiting them from free relaxed movement, then we won't be able to stop the emotional outbreak because we are causing it. If we are accomplished riders and are having this problem, then what I do is I keep asking for the change, going back and forth until I get a better response, then I  move on to something else. After a while I will come back and try again. Stopping and moving on is huge in gaining control over their emotions. It tells them,"If you just relax it will go away."  I do this every time I am with a horse, on the ground or in the saddle. Anytime they relax a bit more than they were I stop and move on. No matter what it is I am working on. Sometimes its just for a few seconds and we start again.

So if we remember not to just be happy with whatever they give us and be more aware of exactly what we want, being aware of their emotions, and always looking for improvement. Then our leadership roll becomes stronger. Once they are totally excepting us as Qualified Leader, then all their stress is relieved. It becomes our responsibility. This takes time and practice. It also takes a lot of awareness and constant evaluation on our part. Making sure we know exactly what we are asking and exactly what we are getting. Being aware and in tune with their emotions, always rewarding for any form of relaxation.

Thank you for reading.
Our next topic will cover "Communicating With, Flow of Energy"

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