EMHH Ep 49: Stubborn No More: Unlock Your Horse's Enthusiasm by Matching MovementFeb 08, 2023
Do you wish your horse was more willing and enthusiastic? Do you ever think of your horse as lazy or stubborn? Do you wish your horse would pay more attention to you?
In this episode, Mary gives you tips to use leading as a fun way to connect with your horse and have a more willing, enthusiastic equine partner. Done mindfully, a simple activity, such as leading your horse, can turn into an exercise that can refine your communication, improve movement and elevate your relationship with your horse.
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Mentioned in this episode:
😲Short video of my horse, Breeze, chasing me with a whip: https://youtu.be/WGRPEdhKbp0
Simple Haltering Changes to Improve the Relationship with Your Horse: https://www.marydebono.com/blog/h48
Why You Should Lead Your Horse From the Wrong Side: https://www.marydebono.com/blog/h47
Easily improve your movement and position in our FREE rider masterclass.
Feldenkrais® for Riders videos: https://www.marydebono.com/rider
All information is for general educations purposes ONLY and doesn't constitute medical or veterinary advice.
Hello, today, I'd like to continue where we left off last week. So that was episode 48 of the Easier Movement Happier Horses Podcast. And today I'd like to share with you some very simple things you can do while you're leading your horse to help elevate your relationship with your horse, to make that connection deeper and to notice things more, to stay ahead,
to be, you know, of any potential problems that might be developing, whether behavioral or physical problems. So it's just a great way, just be a more proactive part of your horse's life. So if we haven't met before, my name is Mary Debono and this is the Easier Movement, happier Horses podcast. I'm so glad you're here. So if you haven't listened to the last episode,
please go back and listen to that one if you can. First it would make more sense. And that's episode 48. And it was all about how to use something we do all the time halter in your horse, right? But to use it in a very intentional way to again, improve your relationship with your horse and to even improve your, your performance,
your horse's performance. Help them soften, help them get rid of unnecessary tension, physical and or emotional. And just make it a more delightful experience for both of you. Okay, so we're gonna continue along that same vein. And now you've had, your horse is haltered, you're holding the lead rope and you're going to lead your horse. So again,
you can bring more awareness to this, to this interaction, to this activity. You don't just have to mindlessly be leading your horse, right? Like we often do, cuz it's something you do so frequently, right? Becomes very habitual. But you can just start to pay more attention. Maybe make sure your phone is not in your hand, okay?
Or you're not talking constantly on the phone. I see people all the time with their horses and they've got their, you know, Bluetooth or whatever, and they're just a whole time talking to somebody else on the phone. Now I know sometimes there's things you need to take care of, some business you need to take care of, maybe you're talking while you're with a horse,
but make sure that doesn't become a habit. So be present with your horse. So that's number one. Same thing with the halting. So you want to be present, and that means noticing your, what you feel like, noticing your own bodily sensations. How are you standing, what is your posture like? And that doesn't mean to try to force yourself into a posture,
it's just noticing what you're doing without effort. Do you feel like you're kind of slump, maybe your neck feels tired, or do you have this effortless, you know, easy carriage? Do you have this elegance to yourself? Just notice, again, don't change anything. Just notice. And then notice how your horse is. How is your horse standing?
When you start to lead your horse, how willing is your horse to come along with you? And then I like to get even really granular. Again, you don't have to do this all the time, but once in a while, notice as you walk, how do you initiate that walking? So which leg do you step forward with first? Do you hold your breath?
Do you exhale? Do you inhale? What do you do? How do you, how do you encourage your horse to come with you? What is the communication between you and your horse? Again, so much of this is so habitual that we're not aware of it, but when we become aware of it, we can improve it, we can refine it.
So notice how your horse walks along with you. Is there a easy willingness to come along? Do you feel like you're dragging your horse? Is your horse racing out in front of you? Maybe wants to go out to the green pasture or see her friends or whatever. Just notice that. And then maybe every once in a while, stop your horse.
Notice how your horse halts. Do you have a sense of, of easy balance in the stopping? Or does your horse stop very heavy in the front? Then how does your horse start walking again? Which leg comes forward first? These are things that most people don't pay attention to, but you know what, once you start training your brain to notice them,
you don't have to do it so consciously and, and your brain will start to notice when things change. We tend to have to get pretty habitual in our walking, and so do our horses. So just pay attention to that. How does your horse stop? Where are all the feet? How does your horse walk again? And like last week we talked about this idea of,
you know, working from either side of the horse, putting the halter on from the habitual way, which is generally the on the left side of the horse or the right, which is the off side or the non habitual. And in a previous episode, I think it was episode 47, I went into more detail about why we want to do more of the non habitual,
how that's so good for both us and our, you know, ourselves and our horses proves your body and your mind by the way. But so go listen to that one too, if you haven't. So notice does your horse change the way they walk? Depending on which side you're on. And if your horse has any, any tension around this, make sure you work with a qualified trainer.
It's funny, just by leading your horse from the other side, a lot of times horses will try to put you back to where they think you should be and just be really safe about all your interactions with your horse. Okay? But you know, these are questions you start to ask yourself. And now you might think, I don't know, I just see my horses walking,
they're just walking next to me. But just get a kind of a sense of the, the lightness that your horse has in walking. So a lot of times people who think they have no idea how to feel this right, they think they have no idea. And then for example, we do a session with the horse, right? And I teach this in my Move with Your He program.
So I teach you how to do the hands-on work with your horse afterwards when you walk your horse, so much of the time people will be like, oh my gosh, my horse is just so much lighter. I could feel it through the rope, right? I could feel it through the lead rope. And that's what I see. So again, just asking your brain to pay attention to this,
even if you're not conscious of the answers, just say, Hmm, how light does my horse feel? Is there an ease to this activity we're doing? Okay? Just start asking that you're training your brain to pay attention to these things, okay? The questions are more important than the answers, right? Because how you direct your attention is really,
really important. So you, you're, again, you're, you're training your brain here, okay? So you're walking your horse, right? You're noticing your horse footfall, you know, how much do the hind legs step up? You know, is there, you know, how, how engaged are your horse hind legs, right? Is there an overstep?
Are they tracking up? And don't judge it. Just notice it. Just notice it. And then also pay attention to the front feet. Because a lot of times people are very, almost like obsessed with how the hind legs track up, but they forget that, you know, if the front feet aren't doing a full movement, that's going to impact how the hind feet,
how the hind legs move. Okay? So just notice, and if you're in a place where the ground has a, like, maybe like, you know, can make a nice imprint of your horse's hooves, that's really ideal. And you could look at it, you know, and then look at your own, your own stride as well. And notice what you see.
And notice even if there's more pressure on one side, again, just start asking these questions, you, you're training yourself to pay attention. And this really, really pays big dividends because you start to notice things before they become a problem, okay? And it definitely elevates your relationship. It's like your horse knows that you are paying attention. In other words,
you can, you, you refine your communication is what I'm trying to say. So that will definitely elevate your relationship with your horse and just have that deep bond and that just kind of like easy way of communicating. Like you don't even realize that simple little movements of your body will signal to your horse something and your horse will respond. It's pretty cool.
Again, you have to start at the beginning if you haven't done this, but over time it's really amazing what happens. So I'd invite you to do that. Then another thing is, and again, I talk about this in my, in my programs. So just say you, you've noticed, oh, you know, my horse isn't really coming, you know,
along with me very willingly, or my horse isn't tracking up the way I would like, or the shoulders feel restricted or whatever. Then it's really nice to do the hands-on Debono Moves that I teach to help your horse get that sense of freedom again. Okay? And that definitely will elevate the relationship and improve the performance and the connection, all that good stuff.
Okay? The other thing is just like we talked about in the haltering episode, you have to think about what your horse is anticipating. So, you know, we, we we're habitual, right? You know, we, we feed our horses at certain times, we turn them out to pasture at certain times, or maybe they're, they live out there that which is awesome,
whatever it is. There's usually kind of a routine that we do with them. And so there's a certain anticipation, oh, it's 10:00 AM you know, not that your horse knows exactly what time it is, but they'll be like, oh, I'm going to be led over to the grooming area now and maybe I'll be, you know, tacked up and ridden.
So notice that, notice if there are certain times when your horse seems more willing to come along with you than others, what is your horse anticipating and can you make whatever they're anticipating, something that's more pleasurable for them. They can, they have good associations with being lead. I mean, I've seen horses over the years, unfortunately too many times where they have to be kind of dragged because they know what follows is not pleasant.
And I, and, and not only dragged, it's like they're people use a whip or whatever to get them to the grooming area to be groomed and tacked up. They have to do the same to get them to the mounting block. I mean, it's, to me, you wanna ask yourself what is going on that your horse is objecting?
And that's a whole other could do a multitude of episodes around that. But you know, again, people just say, oh, that's the way he is or that's the way she is, or she's not in the mood, but she needs to do this. You know? Is that really the relationship you wanna have? I don't think so. So let me tell you,
you know, I love talking about my horse Breeze. And so before he was my horse, he was always described as belligerent, stubborn, you know, and many other derogatory things. And one of the things he would do is when people would lead him, especially to a grooming area or, you know, to be groomed, tacked up, whatever,
he would just put on the brakes. Put on the brakes. I'm not going, not going to the grooming area. And then once he was tacked up, not going in the arena, you know, just put on the brakes. And what was funny about that was, okay, so that disappeared when I got him because he stopped, he started to realize,
I helped him see that there could be a lot of pleasure when I'm leading you somewhere instead of all this negative stuff that he had been used to. But what was really interesting was someone came to visit him from his past. Now this person was a nice person. This person was not someone who inflicted any abuse on him, but it was in that period of time where he was considered stubborn.
Okay? So it was before I had him. So it's interesting. So, so anyway, we had, he was out and you know, I I, I went to bring him in and she wanted to, you know, say hello to him and all this. And then she said, oh, can I lead him over, you know, to this other paddock?
And I said, sure. What was so funny was he immediately stopped, like he went right back into that old habit. It's like he recognized her and he was like, it's sort of like the, the neural connection started firing in a way that had, he hadn't in a really long time. And he got into that, oh, this is what I do,
I stop. So it was really interesting. And as soon as I took the, the lead rope, he went with me. And again, I don't think he held anything against that person specifically, but that person reminded him neurologically. I'm not saying he intellectualized this, but it triggered, I guess you can say that,
that habit of, oh, I stop because what's gonna happen next is not gonna be so pleasant. Okay? So anyway, just as a little aside, your horse can have all kinds of habits and they can, they can be from before you guys were partners, okay? They can be, you know, baggage if you will, right? Some,
some historical stuff that your horse came with. Very often that happens actually. And even if you had your horse from birth, maybe you bred your horse, there could be things that have happened maybe while you weren't there or whatever. So you never know. So anyway, no judgment, it's just this is, notice these habits that your horse has and notice what precedes them,
okay? And how, and then you can think about ways of leading your horse, for example, that it's going to be more pleasurable. Again, I know I keep saying this, but in my programs, we, it's, my program is awesome by the way. Move with Your Horse because we get into like even making grooming for a horse that doesn't like it like Breeze used to be,
or tacking up again, didn't like it. Many horses don't. But you can do it in a way that, that it actually becomes pleasurable and performance enhancing, okay? That they actually use their body better, they improve their body awareness and coordination through what you do while you're tacking them up. It's hands-on stuff. It's really cool anyway, but if you're not in the program,
I wanna give you some actionable things to do. So you're paying attention now more attentively. It's a little repetition there to how your horse is walking with you and you're, if it's safe, doing it from both sides, right? Taking turns, of course. So notice what you notice. Notice if you are automatically kind of synchronizing your steps with your horse's steps and if not,
you might wanna play with that. So whether you choose to do, you know, matching the front legs or matching the hind legs, maybe try it different ways, you know, then can you influence your horse by then Once you match for a long time light, you're matching, matching, matching, right? They call this matching and mirroring you match,
match, match. And then you can slightly just very gradually change your step, right? Change your, your cadence or whatever your speed and see if your horse just naturally responds to that and matches you. Okay? It's kind of fun to play with this cuz but you have to do it very gradually. I mean, you can't just like be one,
say your horse is really slow and you're going slow along with your horse and then suddenly you like really speed up, that probably won't work. But if you do it gradually enough, it often works and it's really cool. So it's that matching and mirroring. So start to pay attention to these things, you know, people right away reach for a whip.
I don't use a whip. The only time I used a whip with Breeze was when I taught him, and I'm definitely gonna link to this in the show notes, is when I taught him to carry a whip and chased me with it. And it took five minutes for him to learn that because yes, he's very smart, but I think he thought that was the worldview that should be,
you know, happening, that the horses should be carrying the whips. But anyway, so I digress. But people right away reach for that or they hit them with the rope or they, you know, put a lot of pressure some other way. But there's more subtle things you can do that are kinder and also just feel better. And not only that,
but that's what improves your connection with your horse. That's what improves this feeling of harmony. This elevates your relationship, right? That will carry over into other things you do. You might think, well, just walking, I'm just walking my horse from, you know, one place to another. That is setting the tone for how you work your horse in hand,
how you ride your horse, all those things. And when you, you're, you're training your own brain and you're training your horse's brain to recognize these small changes and to, to pay attention to them, right? And to, to work with each other, right? You're getting more of that cooperation, more of that connection. So this is, this is important.
It may seem like, you know, it's just leading, but it can have big repercussions very positively and also negatively if you're not paying attention and you're kind of just teaching your horse to tune you out. Okay? So, so these are things to think about. Okay? So I'm looking at my notes here cause I always have notes for you. I always do notice we talked about this already,
about your, your own posture, your own sense of ease in your movement. And remember how you move, right? How you breathe, how you direct your attention are all felt by your horse. They're all, they're all experienced by your horse and they all influence the interactions you have with your horse. So be mindful and you don't have to drive yourself crazy with this and do it all the time.
Again, little baby steps and you're training your brain to automatically pay attention to these things, to take it in on an unconscious level and then to be more, you know, just be more aware. And it can happen very naturally, okay? But in the beginning, you have to make a conscious decision to do this and to pay attention, right?
And the more attention you pay to your horse, the more attention your horse will pay to you. I mean, that's what I've seen over the years. So I hope these gave you some, some other ideas about leading. We have more to talk about other activities that you're doing with your horse, you know, working in hand riding, mounting, dismounting,
tacking up, all that stuff. And when you just add in this little bit of exploration, having this, what I call compassionate curiosity, which means you're curious about how you're doing things, your horse is doing things right, there's that curiosity, but it's compassionate, it's not judgmental. It's not like, ugh, my horse is so slow, or my horse is always pulling me,
or my horse looks so stiff. Or that right hind isn't tracking up, darn it. It's this compassionate curiosity which allows your brain to find solutions, okay? Without even even intellectualizing it, you start to pick up information at the unconscious level. So I hope you have fun. Always feel free to email me, mary@ marydebono.com.
Let me know if you have a specific challenge maybe with leading or anything else that you want me to talk about. Okay? Thank you so much for joining me and I can't wait to share more with you. Bye for now.