Is it getting worse or is it getting better?
Seems like a pretty simple concept, but learning to read the movements, signs and signals that allow you to have the best timing and keep the progression going is something that is individual to every horse and human partnership I think.
This year I really took a lot of inspiration from watching people who haven’t worked on the passive side of the spectrum or used FBT before.
Each participant picks up on different pieces of communication first. Some notice every ear flick, some react to the slightest eye movement, some are perfect mirrors for their horses legs.
Some move more, others move less. Everyone is different, and everyone sees each horse individually. Comparing what I was seeing to what each rider was reacting to was so fascinating, learning to see what they saw at the start of their journey gave me a whole new layer of perception.
The more horses think, the better they feel, and by the end of the first day, every horse had had their needs fulfilled, their minds engaged and had begun to associate their human with comfort, good memories and an actively positive partnership through moving on on the best feeling possible, leaving when the situation was getting worse, and matching the horses in flow and harmony.
This was a lot to sleep on! And come the morning, everyone was brimming with questions, ready to advance and expand their understanding.
Our first topic of discussion was dominant behaviour. I have never been drawn to dominant horses, I freely admit that I struggle the most to be a good horseman when faced with behaviours that make me want to be dominant back. I like to hope it’s partly to do with age, and that as I grow up, it will become easier to be mellow and patient and I will find my own stubborn dominance rising less. But in reality I also realise that this is not a problem that will magically disappear…
But once again, what was cloudy became clearer after a fascinating discussion about the causes of dominant behaviour and tools to react to this passively.
Dominant behaviour is in horses similar to that in humans in that dominant horses become dominant because they are insecure…
Finally, an emotion I can relate to (!)
Connecting dominance with a lack of confidence was key for me, and understanding that you can deal with aggressive behaviour passively by not engaging (walking away/changing direction) nor rewarding with flow or harmony was pivotal. I’m so excited to put this into practice and see the results of such a big mindset change!
The focus for the riders on their final day was the stages of acceptance (to be used for assertive leadership – when you ask for something) and the brilliant analogy of the bank account of the relationship. I love a good analogy, and this one is perfect, simple to understand, and works consistently the deeper you dive.
Assertive leadership for me sits on a fine balance. I always feel like I need to check myself and make sure I am where I really think I am; have I gone further into insistence or dominance
– not that there is anything wrong with dominant leadership but it can be easy to think you’re being assertive when you aren’t –
or have I been inconsistent and slipped into a state of passive leadership where I’m not really making good decisions anymore…
Watching each rider build on their passive observations from the first day and use their knowledge of their horse’s likes and dislikes to make good decisions was a much more variable experience than I had anticipated.
Asking for a focus change or supporting the horse into a focus change by coming out of harmony and waiting for the horse to decide to change something to make themselves feel better looked so different in every partnership.
Some horses loved closeness, so supportive or assertive leadership often meant distance for these partnerships.
Some liked to stand in one spot, so a human moving was enough to cause that thinking moment.
Others prefer their human far away, and the closer the two became, the more the change was influenced. The same reaction but with such divergent conversations was exceptionally helpful to watch.
And of course, as with every Organised Equestrian clinic, it’s always a pleasure to be surrounded by such great horsemanship. Timing for the horses was brilliant from all; moving when they moved, choosing the perfect focus changes to choose an easy or enjoyable spot of activity to reinforce the positive association, and balancing the exact timing to move just as the good moment would reach its peak.
As the day came to a close, the foundations had been set, and most of the riders were now heading home.
I couldn’t wait for morning. To get right back into the proverbial saddle, to test everything I had learnt so far, to expand and explore and make leaps and bounds and have the opportunity to once again be in harmony with Lawrence in this very special environment.
Suffice to say I slept like a log, and arrived for Day 1 of clinic 2 bright eyed and bushy tailed! Little did I know my well laid plans were about to be broken down!
(TO BE CONTINUED…)
So, I hope you are all enjoying the next update! If you have anything you’d like me to talk about in the next post, anywhere you disagree with me or anything you’d love to discuss, please don’t hesitate: I am ready to connect!
But for now, peace out and pony love!