Horse Training – Defining Connection

by Matt Janzen on January 4, 2008

How do we define the connection so that we can become more aware of when it is happening?

We can acknowledge certain dynamics as they become established and that gives us a plan for progressing to deeper areas.

  • The dynamics that are recognizable as they are established are:
  • Comfort
  • More “thoughtful” response
  • Less instinctual reaction
  • New scenarios don’t escalate anxiety as extremely
  • When escalations occur – they diffuse more quickly
  • Growth in understanding of the prey/herd species psychology and physiology
  • Cues start to have more complex meanings (i.e. We are able to speak sentences and paragraphs rather then just the alphabet or single words)
  • Subtle nuances become more recognizable

Let’s explore defining these values with more specific awareness.

What expresses comfort from the horse?

Less flight instinct and reluctant reactions replaced with more curious and confident responses.

Now how do we formulate a plan for establishing comfort? There isn’t any way we can completely formulate achieving comfort. We can elevate our awareness of differences though and promote towards comfort more specifically. Instead of focusing on a buck, for example, we focus on making our horse more comfortable in general. We focus on the flight-fear response being there and reinforce comfort values, then the buck goes away without specifically worrying so much about a buck. We should try to be a more proactive leader in helping it progress more efficiently. Rather then just allowing a horse’s acclimation to be the deepest values of comfort. Those values don’t translate to understanding, they’re only value is at a minimal level due to the simple intellect of the horse. Horses are intelligent but do not possess a deep cognitive capacity. They aren’t doing algebraic equation as they graze in the pasture. Eating, sleeping, playing, etc. they’re existence is a simple and beautiful one. Some horses have more capacity then others but it is still too limited in it’s instinct-only based awareness. If we are going to be establishing ourselves as a legitimate leader, providing avenues of comfort will be the most thorough way. Using a sequential, escalation approach of developing reactions into thoughtful responses establishes comfort at a much more consistent level.

This equates to more comfortable interactions for both the follower (horse) and the leader (Us).

The equine’s herd/prey species self-preservation instincts are what determine this as a high value in defining who the herd follows in the herd psychology understanding. The leader that consistently keeps the herd safe becomes the leader and is followed without question. This can be observed in a herd regularly. The herd may hear something and all raise their heads looking around but if the alpha doesn’t give it any acknowledgment, they all go back to grazing like nothing happened. If the alpha becomes startled and takes off, the whole herd takes off without stopping to take a second look. We are wanting similar consent, rather then forced conceding, we want the second thoughts involved though too. We even want, within our horse/human interactions, to rely on the same instincts we are trying to counter. It is a very complex balance to achieve. When we try to over-simplify we don’t look close enough. When we get lost in the complexities, the details that help, become a deterrent and we’re lost. When we keep balanced perspective on what the reactions mean according to comfort values then we start to see that we have areas that remove the heightened negative reactions. We fix the disease rather then just treat the symptoms.

A relationship of any kind, is being willing to relate. Trying to understand from a different perspective than our own. If you try to understand your horse then you will try to develop something much more positive. It will maintain more positive values and keep dignity in the equation.

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