When clients come to the farm for a session, I always give a quick demonstration in the round pen to show them what we’re going to be working on. I run through a series of exercises I have developed to uncover common issues in communication and leadership styles. For example, sending the horse away and inviting them back in can reveal if a person is good at identifying, respecting, and setting boundaries. After the demonstration, each participant/client gets a turn. People are often surprised that it is in both ways easier and harder to do than they thought.
Some enter the pen thinking it’s just a matter of using the right hand signals, but horses are not circus animals. They are followers by nature, ready and available to be led. However, they will not move if they don’t have to. Horses are masters of energy conservation; they are not on auto-pilot. If you give them any reason to not move, they simply won’t. In a matter of minutes, each participant is able to establish their unique relationship with the horse, allowing them to achieve the desired results.
This is where the participants will learn about themselves. Are they too soft or too strong? Too ambiguous? Are they clear in their thoughts and the energy they project? Blaming the horse does not work, as many learn pretty quickly. I guide each individual through different possible ways to interact with the horse based on how I see the horse reacting. I don’t always know what is in the person’s head, but I can translate what the horse is doing. By understanding why the horse is responding in a certain way, people are able to reflect on their own thoughts and behaviors to alter their approach.
Each horse/human combination will be unique, and ultimately, it's not about the horse! They are just giving us honest feedback on how to communicate better.
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