Forced on the Ground

Over the past few months, I have been forced to stay on the ground with my horse.  While I abhor being forced into anything, the cold temperatures here in the Midwest have resulted in snow and ice, cold and stiff saddles, cold and stiff horses as well as people with little motivation to get out and move with their horses!  My motivation to move has come from my upcoming certification for Connected Riding, and as usual an unexpected benefit has come from being forced to “stay on the ground”!

Carolyn Resnick, and expert horsewoman in communication with animals and horses in particular, shared a piece on “horse whispering” that I found pertinent to what can happen when we take some time with our horses on the ground.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about grooming as little as possible just so I can get on my horse and ride, but I also understand the huge benefits that come from building a relationship quite literally, “from the ground up”.

Here’s what Carolyn had to say “The horse whisperer must exhibit an ability to “own” his personal space because he knows that the horse with the highest ability to control his personal boundaries is the most respected in the herd.  Actually it is the courtship in how bonds are built in natural herds. 

The reason respect is important is that it will bring about a magnetic connection where a horse will choose your leadership and you will have the full attention of your horse.
When personal boundaries are respected they are no longer needed. At that moment a magnetic connection is there for the taking.

This is the key to bonding with a horse.  It has nothing to do with tack or capturing a horse against its will.  You need to set boundaries in order to remove them.

So what does all this have to do with being “ready” for the upcoming 2014 riding season?  Well, some magic has happened with Guinness and me over the winter.  Since we’ve been working together on the ground, my normally overly friendly “golden retriever” horse who LOVES to get into my space has learned more about boundaries with me.  I got very tired of having him barge into me on the ground and gently but firmly established my “bubble” of space.  Because of that, I no longer have to “protect” my space, and our liberty work has gone from good to great!  This has transferred into how we communicate both on the ground and not surprisingly, in the saddle.  His confidence has increased, my leadership has grown, and our relationship has blossomed.

I don’t think we would have achieved this level of growth had it been a mild winter and I spent more time in the saddle.  I would have been tempted to work on transitions, lateral movement and forward.  Instead, I was forced to work on things on the ground that required me to be creative, consistent and patient, as well as firm in regards to my boundaries.  And surprisingly (not!), our transitions, lateral movement and forward under saddle has all improved dramatically…fancy that!

So now’s the time while we move from cold season to mud season, to find our motivation to get back out there with our horses!  There’s still plenty of time to establish more of that relationship on the ground, which will surely translate into the saddle as soon as the weather allows.  Get ready for a great 2014 riding season!