It’s this one thing we all desire and we talk so much about. When are we really well connected? What does it mean? And how do we actually achieve a better connection?
Let’s start with this example. I once bought the most beautiful but reserved stallion I had ever seen in my life. Everything in this horse was attractive and inviting, but yet there was a very clear invisible line I was not allowed to cross.
I already knew the horse had some bad experiences in the past. However, considering his bloodlines, I am sure that a big part of his personality and his behaviour was underlying in his genes (in fact, many Lusitanos or even working breeds are designed like this).
In the beginning I used my feeling, my knowledge and my patience and tried to convince him about me and my good intentions. I didn’t have to try hard to do that. I had been in love with this horse from the first second I had seen him. The results were very good. The horse made progress and I could have been happy with that. But deep inside I knew that if we would find ourselves in a situation about life or death or even just in a more serious, opinionated discussion, he would have turned around and left me, or even hurt me very seriously.
So how can you convince a horse like that about the commitment you want from him?
I changed drastically… Every little moment that before I allowed him to get away with too much distance, too much defensive behavior or even going through a motion without really being physically or mentally invested I now provoked him to really be there.
To be honest: Everything that I started to do with that stallion was a provocation, a pure und fully intended provocation. I expected him to look at me, I expected him to understand and deal with his physical limitations and the pain that comes with changing a body into a physical, functioning system. I expected him to let me in his personal space while training. We were in each other and more than that I was the one responsible for the way he felt. I expected him to confront and face his anger and aggression (he had quite a lot of it). And I expected him to always ask me first before everything that he was about to do.
What I never (!) expected him was to like or even love me. I just expected clarity in our communication and a 100% obedience following my indications. No matter if that meant being brushed in a way he didn’t agree, doing work in hand asking to really use his right hind leg or simply control his impulse when under saddle.
I know that many people these days believe in a partnership that is very much built on equality and togetherness in terms of making decisions. I simply don’t believe in that.
When teaching 500kg horses to deal with mental and physical pain and discomfort, the willingness to address these issues will be small to none existent (depending on the breed, individual characteristics and the history of this particular horse). If I don’t demand to be let in there, I will probably never enter that space or it is a spontaneous decision if my opinion or indication will be considered. For me personally, that is not good enough…
I will never or very sparingly be the leader my horse subconsciously will want and needs me to be.
Only in a space of absolutely letting go of control born out of love and respect the magic of physical and mental connection can and will happen.