Building a solid foundation is key in your relationship with your horse. A relationship is built on communication and trust. I believe that communication builds trust. The better you can communicate, the better you will understand each other. Notice I said each other. We need to understand them just as much as they need to understand us. I like to think of communication as send and receive and not a one sided tell all. I feel we need to spend more time listening to what our horse is saying to us so we know if what we want to say to them is appropriate at that time. This is why we are doing 2 clinics this year on this topic. The first on May 18th and the second on July 20th.
I would like to point out that even though you may have a horse that has advanced in their training to a point of great performance. Some of these horses never got a great foundation. Even if they did, they can always get better by going back to the basics again. If we just keep going forward and never look back, we will progress, but some things will not. Sometimes we need to go back to see if there are any cracks in our foundation. If we get in the habit of going back to see where we did or didn't progress, we have more opportunities to see what areas need improvement. Many people come to our farm and see our 3 horses and think they're so well trained. I owe a lot of that to the beginners that come here for lessons. I use all my horses for lessons and they are always going back to the beginning every time someone new comes for a class. Each person just starting their journey in horses has that little different out look on things and a different way about them. They also have a slightly different body language than the last person. This gives the horse a chance to understand many different accents (so to speak). It is also helpful because the horse tries even harder to understand, because they know from previous experience that the person is trying to communicate with them. An example I could give to this could be if you ever had to work with someone who speaks a different language than you as a primary language. You both need to communicate with each other so you find key words and phrases so you can work together. The more you work together the more you understand each other. The higher the need to communicate and/or the higher respect for each other you have the more addicting the want to understand each other becomes. This is the same with the Human Equine relationship.
To me, a foundation is laid well when you are able to understand how your horse is feeling and what they are saying to you at any given moment. Also that they are at least as comfortable, if not more, when they are with you as they are when there're away from you. Both you and your horse should be willingly attentive to each other. You should have a basic communication of stand still, back up, move your shoulder, move your hind. walk forward, pick up speed or slow down. All this you should be able to communicate loose without any overreactions. The overreaction would be the emotional aspect that we must overcome as well. Even if a horse raises his head high and his eyes and nostrils open wide when you ask for something, I would say is a sign that they are uncomfortable or startled by your request. I would not recommend trying to correct it. I would just ask the same request again as many times as it takes for them to be OK with it. When you stop asking they will have a better understanding of the exercise and what kind of response you would like from them. The practice also takes away some of the anxiety because they have a better understanding of the request.
Sometimes emotions can get the best of us and our horses. We need to be tuned in to it for ourselves and them. Emotions can be out of fear, aggression, or both. An easy going unemotional horse can be the easiest to train. But even this horse can become emotional if we don't have a grip on our own emotions. Having a heightened awareness and an understanding of whats going on and why will help with alleviating it.
When your horse understands that you have control over your emotions and you understand and respond to their's well, then the trust has just gone up a level. The more you understand and are aware of, the better you will respond. The better you respond the higher the trust. The higher the trust the better the relationship.
Thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.