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Achieving clarity – the importance of sending the right messages to your horse – part 2

achieving clarity sending the right messages to your horse part 2 header

In Part One we looked at horse and rider misunderstandings, lapses in communication and ultimately a break down in the relationship due to lack of clarity on the rider’s part.

So, let’s explore strategies to help you and your horse form a strong partnership.

Pay attention to you and your horse

Spend the first moments in the saddle focusing on yourself. This is an awareness that you are going to want to return to repeatedly during your ride. Forever. How are you sitting? Hopefully you’ve been doing some out of the saddle exercises in your spare time. If you can’t get to or can’t afford (all your money is going to the horse) yoga classes, check out the internet. Free yoga classes are abundant. Search and find one offered by a knowledgeable practitioner who can meet you at your level of fitness. You can find yoga workout on YouTube or on your smartphone and can even download classes to take on the road when traveling to horses shows.

Yoga has improved my attitude, balance and core strength in the saddle. ‘Refer to the Rider’s Pyramid and ask yourself the tough questions. Are you sitting up? Are you balanced? When you use your left leg, do you pull on your left hand? Ask your trainer to help you refine your riding so you can guide the horse with clear aids.

Tame the Monkey

Didn’t know you have a pet monkey? Well you do, and he’s a noisy thing; he talks and chatters all the time. He evaluates your riding; he distracts you by pointing out things that do not matter at the present moment. Don’t believe me? Have you ever been riding, decided to introduce something a little new to you and your horse, like possibly some lateral movement? As you ask for, let’s say, the leg yield, instead of being present in your position, instead of recognizing if the horse even attempted to answer the question correctly (the question being, “Will you move sideways and forward form my inside leg to my outside rein?”) You think, “Well that’s not good enough. The judge is going to tell me his haunches are trailing and I’m going to get a 5.”

When you are taking a lesson and your trainer is focused on helping you perform a task, do you interrupt her with your own evaluation of what you are doing wrong? At a recent show, I told my student that she needed to perform transitions to help the horse’s engagement for the level she was showing. She promptly walked away from me and started an endless series of Turns on the Haunches. Your monkey offers helpful words like, “I’ll never get this.” “What is wrong with me?” or, my favorite, “Are they looking at me?”

I know I sound like I’ve lost my clarity, nagging at you about your inner chatter, but it matters! Every time you get in your head and lost in your thoughts; you are no longer present. You are no longer listening to the horse. You are no longer aware of how or if he is responding to your aids. You are no longer focused on clear, simple communication with your equine partner. Like fitness, if you want to give your monkey something to do instead of torture you while you are riding, I advise more out of the saddle exercises.

Technology to the rescue. After I fell off a horse three years ago due to my mindlessness, I downloaded a popular meditation app onto my phone. I started daily mindfulness training. Again, you can pick any length from 3 minutes to an hour, whatever works for you. I do a minimum of 15 minutes each day. The app I use has the option to use the same guided meditation for free, or you can become a member for more options. Mindfulness training outside of the barn has made me a saner trainer, a more patient coach and a hell of a lot more focused competitor. It has also trained me to be mindful of both the present moment, and the clarity of my communication with my equine partner. I can focus on what I am doing instead of what I am thinking. Not only clearly communicating with my horse, but also clearly listening to his feedback.

You can only hunt one rabbit at a time

I don’t know who first said this, but it’s amazing. Plus, if you keep this motto in mind, it will help tame the crazy dressage overthinker inside you. I know this will shock you, but horses are animals. They respond. They think, but not in long chain, linear, critical thinking patterns like we do. You confuse him if you give him too much information. If you want to teach him to go forward on a light aid, and every time you aid him to “go”, and then pull back because he is not round, you are trying to hunt two rabbits.

Do one thing at a time. Teach “Go”, and when he knows “Go”, you can add another layer to your task. When working on trot, halt, trot transitions, he must trot, halt and trot. If you start adding straightness, roundness, not twitching his ear, or whatever is bugging you before he understands trot, halt, trot. You have muddied the waters and confused your horse with your lack of clarity. Clarity in Dressage is about adding layers, one at a time, one step at a time until a complex task is achieved.

Clarity is an invisible strength. As an instructor, being clear helps riders accomplish their goals. With horses, it provides the security they need to understand what you want them to do. Just adding this awareness to your riding will help create the magic.

62 thoughts on “Achieving clarity – the importance of sending the right messages to your horse – part 2

  1. I am sure that horse owners will see positive results by acting on all of this information.

  2. It is best to take action right away so your horse will enjoy the rest of the days of life.

  3. hope to win

  4. Learning is a process which also applies to horses.

  5. Fascinating information that is so important to know when dealing with horses. Thank you.

  6. So true

  7. excelente

  8. Keep calm and focused over distractions

  9. Great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  10. that good idea and then the other horse owner dont let horse in good shape

  11. Great information!

  12. Good info for horse owners

  13. That’s a very good idea for the horse and you this can be a very special bond between your horse and you thanks for the heads up

  14. Funny thing is, I can see using this information with training my crazy rescued Treeing Walker Coonhounds, too!

  15. thanks for the post!

  16. Thanks, so important to know!

  17. Great follow up!

  18. Now, I really want to ride a horse !

  19. increible

  20. Thank you! I love how you broke it down into easy to remember segments to build up relationship with your horse.

  21. Didn’t know horse riding was this complicated.

  22. Buenos consejos. Gracias

  23. Horses are great instructors at being in the moment, presence.

  24. Great use of terminology – makes it much easier to remember

  25. This is some really great advice!

  26. The monkey metaphor is perfect and helps. Thank you.

  27. Wow, love these articles! Very informative!!

  28. This is very true

  29. Thanks for sharing this info

  30. Thanks for the helpful information!

  31. Seem complicated.

  32. Super merci.

  33. Great tips. Thanks for sharing this information

  34. This is sweet they are so smart

  35. They are so smart this is really sweet

  36. lots of love

  37. this is very important

  38. Oh wow, really interesting article. Great job!

  39. So important, love the information, knowing your horse is a key factor.

  40. This way of thinking could be applied for almost everything in life

  41. Interesant

  42. Interesante information

  43. I imagine in some situations this could be very important for safety.

  44. Very interesting information.

  45. Owning a horse these days is very complicated, thanks for the info.

  46. interesting read

  47. One thing is sure! Love your horses 😀

  48. good tips to keep in your back pocket

  49. Great tips, thanks for sharing.

  50. Great tips!

  51. I love the idea of having to tame our monkeys! We tend to second guess ourselves and that often backfired on us

  52. This is interesting.

  53. nice great tips

  54. Very knowledgeable thoughtful article You can tell how well paired you are with these beautiful creatures i love the hypothetical pet monkey scenario it makes so much sense

  55. Every horse is unique for sure.

  56. Great article as usual you have invaluable information about horses and keeping them happy

  57. Very helpful info for any horse owner!

  58. I agree with everything you said. I wish you the best of luck..

  59. Treating and training my horse well is a huge priority and these are helpful tips!

  60. Breaking it down into segments learn and master one by one. Great tips!

  61. Very good points. Also useful when teaching dogs.

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