Spooky vs Timid ~ What does your label do to your thinking?

We don’t always get the horse that we want, but we always get the horse that we need.  Your “spooky” horse may not be as spooky as you think.  Sure, he could have a tendency towards greater self preservation than other horses, however his body and your body (and your leadership with him) may add to his degree of spooky behavior.  If he’s more on the timid side, he may need more leadership and support from you in order to feel like he needs to be less reactive in certain situations.  And that leadership comes from your body language as well as your mental, physical and emotional approach.  If you’re willing to take the time needed based on your horse and build the trust that your horse needs (as well as your own trust in yourself) you’ll set yourself up for a win-win situation.

So where do you start?  You can start with yourself and then invite your horse along for the ride.  With Connected Riding you become "live" weight to your horse, and your horse is able to access all four legs to fully utalize his 4-wheel drive.  For this reasons from a Connected Riding perspective, I invite you to find neutral in your body.  Neutral allows your body to buoy and be without brace or resistance, it invites your horse to move along with you instead of feel brace against you.  There’s nothing more soothing than having a body move with your “flow and energy” than to brace against it. Brace invites us to question why we feel that way; is there something to be concerned about, is there something to avoid or fear?  Here’s a video of Trisha Wren showing how neutral and proper rotation effect your ride, specifically from the horses point of view.  Neutral also gives you the ability to support your horse physically when they become uncertain in situations. 


If you have aches and pain in your body, specifically in the back and knees, neutral may help to relieve some of this by bringing movement back into your body where you once found brace which adds to your pain.  Your stamina increases just because the extra effort to deal with the brace is decreased.  Mentally, neutral gives you a feeling of stability that helps you to feel more secure by giving your lower body an anchor that supports and grounds you, whether you’re walking, standing, riding or working out.

From a Connected groundwork perspective, you can help your horse to use their body more efficiently and release areas of tension and holding patterns that create brace and incorrect movement.  Simple exercises that help release the poll and base of the neck from the shoulders will help the horse connect with the rest of their body.  If there’s a block in the poll, the horse cannot come through from behind.  Very often you see a restriction in the poll by a horse being heavy on the forehand, tripping and stumbling, unable to move out or get a correct lead.  You can even see it by the horse not being able to easily “move” his feet; they seem sticky and stuck.  It’s not that he’s lazy, it’s that he’s really unable to feel his body and specifically his feet to efficiently enough to move fluidly.

TTEAM from Linda Tellington-Jones is a method that expands and improves a horse’s capacity for learning and cooperation, improves horse and rider balance and coordination, and deepens the horse-human bond.  I am new to TTEAM, and from what I have learned there is much that you can offer your horse by learning a few simple, supportive exercises on the ground and in the saddle.  I invite you to either attend a TTEAM clinic for horses, or purchase one of Linda Tellington-Jones’ books which are very well written and are a great way to learn a few of her methods.  She even goes as far as outlining specific exercises for specific challenges that you may have with your horse.  Either way, it’s a great way to grow your relationship, develop greater trust, and create a deeper bond and knowledge of what your horse needs.

Finally, we often look at working on ourselves as the last piece of the puzzle.  I invite you to think about digging deeper with YOUR mental, emotional and physical health as it relates to your horsemanship and your goals.  This mental gymnastics extends much further than your relationship with your horse, and once you embark upon it you get payback from your work in many directions, plus it’s just pretty darned fascinating to explore what makes you tick, and where you can use your strengths, values and beliefs in such an empowering way that things become simple and easy as opposed to feeling stuck. 

Because we’re at the end of summer, I suggest working on the Connected and TTEAM work now, and then embarking on your personal journey through the winter months. This way, you’ll be fully empowered throughout the winter and well on your way for your 2015 summer riding season!  Tally ho!