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To help guide you to a deeper relationship with your horse.

 

Energy – the amazing affect your energy has on your horse
By Chris Forte

Physicists describe energy as either potential (stored) or kinetic (movement). I apply these concepts to human interactions with horses, too. By potential energy I think of our moods. For example, good moods and bad moods, whether we feel excited, enthusiastic, tired, angry, or afraid. Kinetic energy is how we express these moods as words, muscle tension, and body language.

Because horses are very responsive to our kinetic energy, the connection between our moods and that of our horses is important to understand if it is our goal to build a strong that enhances their well-being. This is very important as we seek to perform movements on horseback that are as beautiful and fluid as horses do when at play. Playful movements are the natural product of happy, energetic and carefree horses. Consequently, the first rule of classical equine training is that our horses must be relaxed.

Beautiful movements cannot come from horses who are tense or frightened. Since negative moods such as anger or fear cause our muscles to tense, ever-sensitive horses will tense their muscles right along with us as they prepare to fight or flee from the danger they think you perceive or have created. The chain reaction that follows as both horse and rider escalate their muscle tension can quickly take the pleasure out of riding. Tense human bodies produce unfeeling and insensitive hands, vice-grip legs, and stiff lower backs and buttocks causing riders to become unbalanced and pop off the saddle. In response, horses become increasingly uncomfortable, stiff, and panicky. The beauty and fluidity that flows from happy hearts and relaxed care-free attitudes is lost.

On the other hand, happy moods cause horses and humans to be relaxed and buoyant. Relaxed muscles allow more blood flow; hence more oxygen is transmitted to all parts of the body and brain of both horses and humans. Increased oxygen allows horses to be more sensitive to our aids and helps us to problem-solve when our horses do the unexpected. Relaxed equine muscles produce more endurance and strength and prevent injuries. Relaxed human muscles improve balance and enable us to move with our horses.

There are a number of things that can be done to improve human potential and kinetic energy that creates a happy, relaxed horse-human relationship. First, become aware of the thoughts that put you in a bad mood and set them aside when in the company of horses in the same way you do in the company of small children and babies. Realize that horses, like babies, require infinite patience. Sometimes changing moods is as easy as thinking about something pleasurable such as blue skies, puppy kisses, or red roses. Laugh often and sing to calm yourself. Did you know it is nearly impossible to sing and fear at the same time?

Once you have learned to maintain appropriate potential energy, you can learn how to transform it into kinetic energy to develop a horse-human friendship that produces the movements you always wanted. Have fun with your horse on the ground. Grooming, muscle stretches, walking, and trotting together are always welcome activities as long as you do not scold your horse for not living up to your goals. It is great fun to teach your horse a silly trick or two. Try leisurely walks and other mounted activities that are fun for both you and your horse and do not involve pressure, competition, or repetitious and tiresome drills. Do not set your horse up for failure with tasks he does not understand or is not ready to perform. Horses, like people appreciate praise and slices of apples or carrots when they have tried to do their best, even if it is not perfect. Do whatever you need to do to make your horse look forward to being with you.

As you move through this process you will discover how to regulate your kinetic energy and your horse’s as well. By raising or lowering your enthusiasm you can create half-halts, transitions between gaits, and maintain gaits. Encourage your horse to match your slow, fast, short, and extended walks on the ground. Once you become knowledgeable about modulating your kinetic energy on the ground try it on horse-back. You will be amazed and delighted at the fun you and your horse will have.

Chris Forte is the owner of the Equine Behavioral Health Resource Center. This article was first printed in the Equestrian Connection: the Pacific Horse Advertiser, December, 2012.

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