Seven Secrets to Lasting Leadership

Posted by harmonio on December 2, 2013

  1. The relationship starts well before you touch the horse. All too often people are looking for the horse to come to them or follow them first. Establishing what the boundaries that make both parties comfortable needs to come first.

  1. Setting boundaries and creating a safe space where a horse can express his unique personality are all essential when we interact with horses in the domesticated world. A part of establishing leadership, and also dominance, is being able to influence the speed and direction of the horse. While so much of the industry focuses on the obvious versions of this, such as in the round pen or under saddle, the true masters understand it is in the subtleties of every interaction. In fact, if you are unable to control your horses movements in daily life while leading or in the stall/paddock chances are it will be much harder to establish leadership in the round pen or on their back.

  1. Many horses need the opportunity to settle in after a few days off or in a new environment which makes lunging a valuable tool. When done properly lunging is also be a great way to create a connection and work with the mind and the body of the horse from the ground. Creating focus and making sure you horse can walk, trot and canter on lunge in a calm manner is much more beneficial than simply letting them run around and burn off steam. In fact, a horse that runs on the lunge often takes longer to calm down as the sympathetic nervous system kicks in and their brain shuts off as their body keeps going assisted by the adrenaline pumping through their system.

  1. The round pen is an excellent tool for negotiating/renegotiating the terms of the relationship. It is also a space where a horse can have the freedom to express themselves while having deep learning about themselves and their relationship with you. To take advantage of the possibilities the round pen has to offer we must move away from systematized routines and remain in the present moment, waiting for the moment of growth and embracing it.

  1. The human world holds many things for the horse that horses instincts have not prepared them for. This often leads to a horse going into flight response when she encounters new things. Horses also have an innate sense of curiosity. This curiosity is initially more apparent in some horses as compared to others but it is always there. It can always be cultivated.

  1. As prey animals, a horse’s instincts are hard wired for flight as soon as they are unsure of an object or situation. Desensitization is a popular term for teaching a horse to accept new things. Unfortunately, desensitization is often done in a way that overwhelms the horse’s nervous system. The horse then goes into a freeze response and this is mistaken for acceptance. The true masters understand how to create confidence in a horse through awareness and acceptance of the new object or situation.

  1. All horses have both species and individual needs that need to get met. Creating horse time where you and your horse can just enjoy each others company is just as important as training time. This horse time is an occasion for your horse to just be a horse and for you to make sure all his needs are being met.