10 life lessons I learned from horses - the first 5

„It's amazing what you can learn after you've learned all that you think there is to learn“ 
(Ray Hunt)

The levels of competence: Unconsciously incompetent, consciously incompetent, consciously competent, unconsciously competent" 
(Pat Parelli)

This is a rather challenging young mare I worked with for 4 days. She taught me awareness
of the meaning of my hands. Photo: Marlies

Striving for competence with horses we learn many lessons. Some come to us easily, others the hard way. Preparing for christmas and taking time to reflect, today‘s post is the first part of two texts about the 10 most important concepts I‘ve picked up in the past 20 years from being with horses. So here are the first 5. 

  1. We apply too much pressure - even when we think we are being polite. Any time the horse responds with opposition, it‘s likely we started with too much. Instead of waiting and giving the horse time to react, we become impatient and up the phases, increasing the pressure. Pretty soon we have a fight on our hands. You can avoid that quite elegantly by applying less pressure than you think you might need to get a reaction from your horse - a tip from Buck Brannaman. 
  2. „Don‘t make assumptions.“ A quote by Pat Parelli. We believe we have no prejudices and approach a horse or a situation unbiased. Well, the horse will probably teach us better. Making assumptions with horses in my eyes is one of the biggest mistakes. Expectations blind us, they distract us from what is real and from the moment. They cloud our attention and dilute our judgement. My recommendation: Meet your horse as if it was the first time. 
  3. We hold it in our own hands. Literally. Our hands talk to the horse. They can transmit a feel or pressure. They can be harsh, hectic and scary. Or they can be soft, slow and predictable. It‘s our job to use our hands in a way that benefits the horse.
  4. First give, then take. We want our horses to trust and respect us. But still we‘ll just invade his space and pull the halter over his ears. And we flinch whenever the horse tightens because we are scared he might take off. So much about reciprocity. If I want my horse to meet me with trust and respect, I should challenge my own abilities of giving these two. Do I have a hard time showing someone respect? Is it difficult for me to trust someone? We can just demand trust and respect, we need to earn it. Our horses will tell us quickly if we have any need for improvement.
  5. Let go. As riders, we like control. Understandably, as safety is concerned. Paradoxically, in order to achieve full control over our horse we need to let go first. Buck Brannaman for example says that we need to be able to have our horse walk, trot, canter and galopp on a loose rein first. If we are unable to do that, everything we do with the reins boils down to a form of confinement of the horse. But it‘s not the reins or the bit that hold back or control the horse. He needs to be in control of his own. We can help him with it by opening our hands and give him the reins. We allow him to take responsibility and give him the chance to behave. 
You can find the second part of the post here.
What have you learned from horses?

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