Have you ever wondered: How can I develop more of a bond with my horse, so that we can have more fun together? H&C spoke to horse trainer Elsa Sinclair, who stars in the film Taming Wild, to find out.
Leader and friend
Horses are looking for leaders and they are looking for friends. Leaders create change (hopefully for the better) and friends enjoy your company, exactly as you are.
The way horses express this is not with words, it is with body movements. Friends find flow and harmony with each other, by making physical actions that match or complement each other. This can be as simple as looking in the same direction, or one horse looking out for danger while the other sleeps or eats.
Leaders make new or different movements, such as changing the physical space between them and another horse. So they may go from touching each other to standing further and further apart, or they will move closer to the other horse’s head or tail.
Being in flow
So what does ‘being in flow’ with your horse mean?
To be in flow with your horse is to be like two leaves bobbing along the surface of water, both of you affected by the same environmental influences. To step out of flow for a moment and be the leader is to take action and change something about the physical distance or location in relation to the other, before finding harmony and flow again.
Finding a balance between our friendship actions and our leadership actions has a profound effect on the bond between horse and human.
There are many trainers who can help you learn to be a leader using a tool, like a halter or a round pen, or a clicker and treat pouch. But I think you get a deeper relationship with your horse when you take away all these things, and spend a few minutes every day contemplating how to move like a leader, and a friend with your horse at liberty.
Simple exercise to try
Try this simple exercise and think about what you find:
When your horse is out in his field, go and stand with him and find flow and harmony. Be a friend and move or stand, just like your horse. After a few breaths move a few steps to a different spot near your horse – this is a passive leadership action, which creates change.
In each position you put yourself in, see if you can read your horse’s body language and understand if they feel intolerance, tolerance, acceptance or joy in the decision you make.
When you pause to be in harmony with your horse, are they comfortable enough to let you be in flow with them from that position, or do they feel the need to take the lead and change the physical relationship again to something they like better?
This back and forth conversation seems so simple and perhaps meaningless to us as humans, but to horses it is powerful. Horses read our actions all the time, whether we know what we are doing or not.
To bond with your horse, take a few moments every day to be aware of where you are in relation to your horse in freedom, and how they feel about it. If you get the balance between friendship and leadership just right, you might find it affects everything you do with your horse, as the two of you feel more and more connected, bonded and able to act together toward common goals.