I was in my arena today working with my new horse, Clementine. She is four years old and she is one of those truly great horses that come along so infrequently. She is sensitive, responsive and athletic, and riding her is a bit like driving a Ferrari. Most importantly she is sane, calm and intelligent. Her previous owner taught her to go fast and straight with her nose pointed up in the air but she is learning quickly to slow down, relax and bend.

I was struggling today to get Clemmy to give me the responses that I wanted. She seemed distracted and heavy on the rein. I wondered why she was having trouble understanding me. Then I gave myself a mental shake and took a moment to review my own behaviour. I had been talking to one of my instructors and so I had not been giving Clementine the undivided attention she needed (multitasking usually means that we humans can do many things poorly at one time!). Because I wasn't paying attention I was also making my requests with way too much pressure instead of asking as softly as possible.

I started over, giving Clementine my full attention and softening my requests. Her response was so sensitive and immediate that I felt as though she was responding more to my intention than to my physical cues.

I believe that in our modern world we humans have lost the ability to focus and listen with real intent. Unfortunately that is exactly what our horses need from us. Horses live completely in the moment and they require us to do so as well. We cannot expect them to give us their attention if they don't have ours completely.

It is only when we start to pay attention that we begin to realize how sensitive and responsive our horses are to us and to our requests. We can stop making demands and instead ask softly and politely. Fortunately our horses also have the patience to put up with us as we struggle to learn this lesson over and over again.

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