Relaxing is one the most important things you can do when working with and around horses.
When I say relaxing, I mean for both you and your horse.
In order to start relaxing the first thing you want to do is…
The first thing we all do when we are uncomfortable is stop breathing. So, if you want to relax: breathe, dang it!
How do I know if I’m relaxed?
You are relaxed when you are breathing. If you are breathing, able to look around and see where you are going and have use of your body, you may be relaxed. Most important thing, breathe. If you stop breathing things don’t work. Things like you’re ability to live. Start breathing and everything else will work better. It may be difficult, it may bring up tough memories or feelings but if you start breathing it’ll help get everything moving on the way to relaxing. So first thing, BREATHE.
How do I know if my horse is relaxed?
Your horse is relaxed when he or she is breathing. Sound familiar? Breathing for a horse is just as important for that horse as breathing is important for you. Amazing. Both animals have to breathe to relax. Chewing is a good sign that your horse is relaxing too. Look for the horse to start chewing a bit when they start breathing. They usually go hand in hand. Watch your horse’s head height. When a horse lowers its head it’s agreeing that someone else is on the lookout for danger. When in a herd, there is always a horse looking out and a horse only puts its head down to graze when it feels safe that someone has their back and is watching out for danger. Remember, horses fear death all the time. It’s a prey animal instinct. When they start breathing, chewing and lowering their head, they feel safe. They relax. One last thing you should look at are your horse’s ears. These horses use their ears to “look” at something with their hearing, or two separate things if they need to since they can move their ears independently. If the ears are pinned towards something, this horse is nervous and needs to know what the sound is all about, but if the horse’s ears are flopped out to the sides…you guessed it, relaxed. there are a few other things to think about with horse ears but I’ll get to that in a later post. Basics of relaxing…floppy and out to the sides is relaxed.
A simple exercise to get you guys to relax:
Sit on your horse, or stand next to him. Breathe. Just sit and breathe. Take a breath. Take another. Try to think about relaxing your body. Just like meditation but without the incense. Just breathe.
Eventually what you will get is a breath from the horse. Wait it out. It might take a few minutes but wait it out and eventually you will get your horse to follow your lead and take a big ol’ breath, kinda like a sigh. A big ol’ horse sigh. This is usually followed by some chewing and lowering of the head. This is a relaxing horse.
Because if you are relaxed and your horse is relaxed then you can both focus on the task at hand, whatever that may be. You and your horse will also be more open to each other and more involved in what the other is doing. If you and/or your horse are not relaxed, then you and/or your horse will be focused on something else, something else more important than the task at hand. This can be incredibly dangerous when you are talking about a 1000-lb animal and a 150-lb and pretty squishy person.
So, the moral of the story is: relax and breathe, dang it.