By: Deanna Preis
On more than one occasion, I have seen Shetland Ponies put 16 hand Thoroughbreds in their place. It was not about their size, it was about them believing they were in charge. If that is not proof that working with horses is a mental game, I do not know what is. Our brain is the most important muscle we have when working with horses, and that is why our thoughts are so powerful.
Let’s take the environment in which we train our horses into consideration. We cannot control the environment. Training horses is a dynamic. It never involves just working the horse. It is working the horse with the sound of rain pouring on the indoor arena roof. It is working horses when the wind is gusting and causing everything to move. It is working horses when the neighbor is running a chainsaw, or hanging out laundry, or burning brush. The perfect conditions rarely exist. It is always training our horses in some kind of condition that can vary from day to day. If we focus on those potential distractions, we give them validity, and power. Horses are herd animals, and if the supposed leader of the herd is distracted or concerned with these things, you can bet the horse is going to notice this, and put more energy and concern into these distractions as well.
Take into consideration, the analogy of comparing ourselves to a bottle of soda, or a bottle of water. If a bottle of soda gets shaken up by life’s distractions, the soda will get so agitated that if you take the cap off, it will explode. On the other hand, a bottle of water can go through the same shaking, and when the cap is removed, the water is just as calm as it always was. In order for us to become a leader for our horse, we must be the bottle of water. Above all things, horses seek safety, and security. So be the calm bottle of water despite unnerving situations. You can not control the environment, the only thing you can control is yourself, and that is what will help your horse. It is what is inside of you, your mental state, that trains and reassures the horse, not the perfect situation.
About the Author: Deanna Preis runs a lesson and training program in Southern IL where she teaches not just riding, but an understanding of the horse, how it communicates with us, what we bring to the relationship, and the value of horses as living beings. You can see more of what she does on Facebook at Deanna Preis Horsemanship at Shade Tree Stables, or on her YouTube Channel ShadeTreeStables.