Your horse is your mirror

Earlier last week it was pouring down rain when I went to train the horses. Dragon was in his lean-to when I got there; I wouldn’t have blamed any horse or human for staying in out of the elements. When I got to his pasture gate, he looked behind him, (anthropomorhic, I know, but it looked like he was weighing the pros and cons of giving up the security and warmth of his shed.), looked out at me, looked over his shoulder one more time and walked out into rain and mud to meet me at the gate.

This morning when I got to the barn, the horses had just been fed and Dragon was nose deep in 3 flakes of good hay. He left the hay to come in and train.

Almost failessly, he whinnies when he sees me.

While its tempting to think this is all about me, (and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I love it when I hear him call out to me the moment I appear), the truth of the matter is your training methods, in large part, define who you are to your horse. It’s not about me, but it is about the way I choose to introduce new concepts, the amount of stress/force I consider acceptable in a training situation and my ability to break down lessons  small enough so Dragon can be successful the first time. Horses don’t separate who we are when we are “training” from who we are when we are just hanging out with them in the pasture or going on a relaxed trail ride. All of our behavior when working with our horses informs their composite picture of who we are. Are you predictable? Calm?  Patient?

Since animals think in pictures, and are very good at predictive relationships, your appearance at the barn predicts the start of training. Their reaction, or lack of it, tells you how they feel about “school”.  If my horses aren’t meeting me at the gate, I need to look at my behavior. Remember, your horse is your mirror.

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