Small Connections, Big Shifts

Small Connections, Big Shifts

‘Eyes Closed’
This action may already be a part of your daily greeting with your horse. But are you consciously aware of it’s benefits, or that it can actually create a specific request from your horse? When you pet your horse, where is your go-to spot? (This is likely dependent on the horse, of course.) But for those that have a close knit relationship with our horse, we very typically greet them at the face, and hug them at the face…how many of you rub their eyes closed as part of this interaction? Maybe to help clean up the eye, or maybe – like me – there’s a spiritual loving way to this action?

Our daily interactions with horses likely includes some form of loving gesture. I find this gesture to be very valuable both in the horse’s physical acceptance as well as the horses’s emotional understanding.

The development of the head down cue is the horse’s understanding of how to give to certain pressure around the face. Having this communication with your horse helps with grooming, bridling, clipping, etc.
As my horse becomes comfortable with the head down cue, I can step up the challenge to help solidify another level of calm and quiet from the horse. To do this I can add the challenge of allowing me to close one of his eyes, or both, while in the head down position. This will be accomplished easiest by already having developed some ‘Hold Time’ in the head down cue exercise. Closing one eye, may be much easier for the horse than asking him to close both eyes at the same time. But achieving both eyes closed builds an emotional piece to the relationship where they have developed an understanding that they are still safe without their sight. This is a great form of trust in your relationship with the horse.
Isn’t having their eyes closed a huge vulnerability? If a horse can trust me to cover their eyes and not struggle or panic, then I know he is accepting me on a pretty deep level.
I have found that through repetition of this, the horse calms significantly, and furthermore when I greet him regularly this way, I feel a major shift in our relationship…That calm, docile, heart-connection that we all long for.
Teaching the horse to allow you to pet his eyes closed can have wonderful effects on your relationship because it is a direct way of asking him to trust you. Make it soothing and comfortable enough and he will lean in gently, as if he were returning the love!

‘Spread your Love’
Some of you may refer to this as running energy. But for those of you that aren’t familiar with ‘energy practices’, let me help make you aware of something that you probably already do in your daily activities. If you don’t, find some time, your horse will love you for it!
Remember the scene in your favorite horse movie(it happens in a lot of them), where the music gets romantic and the camera focuses on the horse’s body under dim romantic light, while the person runs their hands along the horse’s body. My favorite movie scene is one from “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken”. The woman has suddenly become blind during an accident while doing a show with her horse, which is her way of life. She’s told that she will likely have many limitations and not ride again. So of course, she’s yearning and determined to be on the horse again-no matter what people say. So she must memorize the feel of the horse under her hands. How many of us have memorized the feel of a horse under our hands?! I’m betting anyone that has had the privilege of being with a horse, period!
This blind ‘feel’, this dramatic moment in the movie is so heartfelt and familiar to me. It’s one daily interaction that I find healing for both myself and the horse I am working with.
The results of this idea, really depend on the Focus that you bring to it. It can have a physical focus of training, such as in my Touch and Turn exercise(TNT), or it can have an emotional or spiritual feel to it. Or you can learn to combine both!
Running energy can have many different levels of emotion or intent with it, and it can be very calming for both you and the horse. Of course, if the horse is calm, we are calm, and vice versa, right?!
It can be as simple as giving your horse a massage. When massaging, of course, you are literally getting the energy flowing by improving blood circulation, which is wonderful. But just exploring the lighter touch you may find that there are other ways to run healing energy throughout your horse’s body. Some horse’s need the lighter touch to allow the development of relaxation in certain areas.

In my practice of Touch and Turn, many times I am running energy, or the intent to heal and balance my horse. The most important part of this exercise is applying it with your hands, not a brush or other gadget. Make the connection. From nose to tail, I’m using my hands to help the horse to relax. Allowing myself to connect with the horse on another level.

‘Stretch and Give, Trust and Hold’
Another big piece that can be added to TNT(Touch and Turn), or just to your daily grooming practice, is stretches. Helping your horse to learn to stretch can be the tricky part at first, but once your horse learns to give or engage into it properly, he will look forward to the process over time. In addition, it can help to build your horse’s trust in handling his feet in awkward positions, and also help him to be more aware and focused on staying balanced enough to not lean or accidentally step on you.
One example of this exercise is picking up the front leg, just behind the knee to a 90 degree bend in front of his chest. Then waiting for the lower part of the leg to relax and literally dangle means that he has likely shifted his weight out of your space and onto the other 3 points of his body. Or you can literally use gentle coercion to help him find those other 3 points(legs). This engagement teaches him to take care of his balance, and ultimately to understand where he should be in respect to your space. But besides being a refinement tool in your training, it can also be a great way to help your horse become aware of certain parts of his body that he may not be using. Maybe he was injured and tends to compensate in other areas of his body. This exercise can be a gentle way to rebalance him.
In general this is a great way to teach the whole horse’s body to give and to release sections at a time. When he can do this in full, you have likely created a well rounded feeling of trust with your horse and his body.

Just Be’
All too often we have busy lives and are limited to the amount of time that we get to enjoy our horse. So, most of the time is likely spent getting the horse in shape or ready to ride for the season. Or focused on improving the general relationship we have with our horse. But one thing we all need to remind ourselves is that it is also really important to Just Be With Our Horses. Go out into their pasture, into their home, and just hang out. Or take them into the arena and give them a chance to roll and kick up their heals without any expectations(of course he isn’t allowed to roll ON YOU, lol!). But hanging out and having very simple expectations of him, just as the other horses might in his herd. This is a wonderful way to get to know him on a very personal level and to help him understand that it isn’t always GO-GO-GO, or do this/do that. This is a great simple way to tell him you love him and respect him. <3
As a trainer, I believe this is one of the most important reminders. Because I’m typically on a schedule or trying to make a deadline, it’s so important to be sure that I take an easy day WITH the horses. Both for myself and each individual horse. Releasing the constant feeling of expectation.

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