Our Presence Speaks to the Horse

Yesterday, during some of my liberty work with all three of the horses, an incident occurred that gave me a thought I wanted to share here. ZZ pinned her ears and chased Pandora, because of wanting to dominate the interaction I was having with the three of them. To do so, she had to dash by me and both horses took off in a sudden flurry of pounding hooves.

Because hubby was videotaping, I could later review it. I was standing calmly as they went by and only took one step to the side to allow the passing of the excited horses.

This is the reason why working more then one horse together is not for everyone. A person, who was recently in my mind, would have thrown up both her hands and shrieked while hopping backwards. I have seen her do it when startled by her own horses  – and even when ZZ kicked backwards when I was fastening a leg strap on her blanket. This attitude of energy – the “presence” is not calming or authorative to the horse.

What is unfortunate is that there are too many of us approaching our horses – timidly, hesitantly, in a fear posture of slumped shoulders, looking down, and with a collasped rib cage. Your horse recognizes this body language far more clearly – he is an animal that survives with phenomenal eyesight and communicates to his own kind through body postures.

While watching one of these recent videos from Hempfling, he discusses (and shows in slo-mo several times) the excited passing of the stallion, but watch his calm, upright posture that quietly asks the horse to stop and come back to him after being startled by the deer. Would you have reacted with such calm?

Hempfling talks about dominating the stallion and this may turn folks off because that has become an emotionally charged word for some. However, I encourage you to watch what he does and ask you what he is doing… to me it translates better as a Calm Authority figure who sets the boundaries, the work, the direction but yet allows the student to play and translate what is required into his own expression. It is not surprising to find that Hempfling has been a teacher and a dancer before entering the field of horses.

Just the other day I had a comment on my Youtube video in re: to ZZ’s leading series – it was that I should hold the rope closer at the halter. This showed me clearly that the viewer had not bothered to read any of HI or my philosophy – as well just missing the point.

In this video, Klaus shows the segment of the stallion bursting forward while he keeps float in the rope (a term used across the ocean by Dorrance); then he shows a clip of another person who instead pulls back on the rope when the stallion takes off.

Can I say even more that this is about Trust? A trust that the handler must have in himself and his abilities – and a faith in the horse that he will respond. That trust-faith-reciprocal belief cannot be found in the person who borderline fears the horses’ exuberant nature.

During the physical exercise, take note of his upright and expanded chest, the shoulders, and the hips under the shoulders in an tall, dare I write “majestic” manner? Again, authority is translated into presence.  His body posture, even to us less capable humans, says I Know what I’m About.

The bow work is being sent to my friend Pilgrim… and for those who say that work isn’t for me, other activities – Yoga, Tai Chi, Martial Arts, and even Running encourages the physical Presence of Balanced Energy.

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2 Responses to Our Presence Speaks to the Horse

  1. You have raised a very important point. The manner of approaching a horse is vital to the establishment of a safe, respectful relationhip. There seems to be a dynamic (at least in my experience) where a person and a horse size up one-another. The key seems to be the point where the person decides to stand up or back down. I know from handling even a rather laid-back stallion that he will push at his boundaries, especially when he isn’t doing much work and has energy to spare. The act of standing up requires a positive mindset and a conscious decision, plus being prepared. Preparation includes equipment and being ready to use it, such as a lead rope looped around the nose. Admittedly a stallion’s outlet for aggression seems to be teeth (rather than back legs as with a mare) so a rope around the nose seems to affront Doru. There again, I’m not having him try to pull away when led, even if he just wants to go a few feet to snatch at somethig edible. Equlibrium is still to be re-established there. Wanting to eat instead of walking or working is his big fault, and the main point where conflict can occur in the relationship.

    Beyond that, there is the matter of maintaining a big presence, which comes down to standing one’s ground, to posture, and sometimes (with Doru anyway) using one’s voice. There are moments when he gets shouted at, and raising my voice does seem to command his respect.

    Unfortunately I couldn’t access the video. I think that perhaps there will be the clue to your reference to “bow work”. Meanwhile I am waiting for the appropriate bow to arrive, as they are imported and are not often in stock.

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