Speaking with your horse

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I recently came upon the following in an article by Scott and Susanne Hassler: "The half-halt is a nurturing dialogue within a communication; it keeps the conversation beautiful."

It got me thinking about a lot of things. One of which was the term "dialogue". I love this choice of word because it is expresses the fact that we communicate with our horses, we don't talk to them.

To me, this means that when we say something to our horse they must answer. Otherwise, we are not being heard. Let your horse go on long enough without paying attention to you and he will start to take over, because he has stopped listening to you completely.

How often do we continuously kick our horse along, oblivious to whether or not he is actually responding to the aid.

Try taking your legs off your horse's side for several strides - does he keep going with the same energy? Does he stop? You didn't put a stopping aid on, so the correct answer should have been that he kept going. If he didn't, ask yourself if you just kick him to maintain energy. Driving aids should create more energy, not maintain it.

Now, for the rest of your rides... and the rest of your life... ask yourself, when I put my leg on does my horse move off the aid? When I relax, does he keep going at the same energy? If he does not move off, that is what a bigger leg aid is for. If that doesn't work, that is why we wear spurs/carry a whip (for that infrequent wake-up call, not for repeated tapping)! If he slows when you take your leg off, put a quick leg aid on until he regains energy and then relax again. Repeat until you both get it. Maybe you can relax your leg for 1 stride, maybe you can work up to 1/2 a circle. Notice how your leg can hang nicely and you can sit up like the lovely rider you always try to be?

Remember: When you are riding, you are not the nagging voice that anyone would eventually tune out. You are that communicator that everyone listens to, because everything you say is thoughtful and clear. When you talk with your horse, keep him engaged like the brilliant speaker that you know you can be. Make sure he responds to your questions and hangs on your every word.

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