Horsey Therapist

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


**If we leave the horse an opening, he’s going to go through it.**

This is something I got from auditing Mark Rashid yesterday. I find it especially useful for my training efforts with volunteer horse handlers/leaders in a therapeutic riding program. It can take all the emotion/personalization/etc. out of the equation.

The horse is not getting away with things, not taking advantage of us, none of that. The horse sees when we are not alert, attentive, and responsible in our leadership role, and the horse will do what is natural -- start leading by default. Someone in the 'herd' needs to be the leader.

Some of our TR horses have a pause, which is very useful for most lesson situations. Some of our horses have virtually no pause, so any millisecond of straying human attention results in the horse taking initiative. Not so good for a lesson setting!

That statement puts the onus back on us, as we humans are the ones leaving an opening. The horse isn't waiting around looking for one (well, in some cases I imagine a horse would be doing just that!), but a horse surely will go into an opening when we leave an opening.

One comment from a student yesterday was: the horse 'took advantage of me'... I helped her reframe that to: the horse 'took advantage of my inattentive moment.' Yes indeed, that is exactly what any horse will do. What great teachers they are! Today I felt like I was teaching a meditation class, well, co-teaching alongside the horses.

One friend added to my thinking by pointing out how we can consciously create an opening for the horse to move into, guiding by leaving an opening where we want the opening, and allowing the horse on purpose to move (physically or emotionally) into that opening.


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