Lots of people talk to their horses, but not many actually listen in return. Have you noticed that?
I have a way I talk to my farrier. When the leg I’m standing on gets tired, I asked him to give back the one he’s held up. I tug the foot a little bit against his hands to let him know. He’s smart enough to listen to me, and he gives me my leg so I can put it down and rest. I’m not being belligerent or stubborn. I’m simply talking to him in the only language I have. I’m grateful that he listens.
Has your horse ever tried to tell you something, but you didn’t listen? Has your horse ever told you he or she was tired, or hurt, or scared, but you decided it was defiance or laziness? Do you tend to use force when your horse says no?
Figuring out what your horse is trying to tell you is part intuition, part observation, and part faith. If you’ve struggled with this, try taking a step back and using a different part of your brain than usual. If you normally go by your gut feeling, try looking at the situation through intense and unbiased observation of the physical evidence. If you normally use only your logical mind and five senses, try using your feelings and intuition to assess the situation.
You can expand your skills by acknowledging what you normally do, and then adding something else. You have the time. You have the ability. Why not give it a bit of practice?
Jane reads me pretty well. She usually knows when I don’t feel good and when I’m just being lazy. She doesn’t just assume that I’m being belligerent, and knows that to push me when I’m not feeling my best would be counter-productive.
Give yourself and your horse a break now and then. Remember, all living creatures have good days and bad days. Sometimes we just need a little respect for how we are feeling in the moment. Of course, if your horse really does become belligerent or stubborn for no reason, a little pushing may be just want he needs. The key is learning to recognize the difference.