Updated: Feb 27, 2020
For real sustainable change to happen in our relationships with our horses we need to slow everything down. Nature and all animals have their own pace and we can tune into this. In our human world we are used to instant results: life is so fast-paced that we don't have the mind space to stop, take a step back even, and put some deep thought into how our horse feels, from their perspective. It can be really hard to slow our minds down and stop scrolling through the ever-lengthening to-do list - I know - there's never enough time! Time is such a luxury nowadays.
Yes, time is a luxury! We need to luxuriate in it - it's all we have! The most luxurious thing in our lives - and it's free. Better than that - it really can never be bought. We all know that someone once said, 'Time is Money' - but is it really?! Time is so precious it actually doesn't have a monetary value, unlike almost everything else. The moment, this very moment, is all we ever have and it is so precious. Let's make it even more valuable by doing things that aren't on the to-do list. Because the to-do list mostly just gets repeated doesn't it?!
We don't use time deeply enough - we skim the surface. To get the most out of it we need to follow the example of our fellow animals and be in the moment with them.
So, let's slow down, luxuriate in this moment in time and reap the benefits this brings to you and your horse. Here are some ideas which can be worked into daily life to begin making this change:
Make grooming a pleasure and notice how your horse reacts to being brushed by different brushes (scratchy/soft) and in different areas (sensitivity). Then make sure he gets, for example, a good scratch behind the ears if that's what he likes, a softer brush on his belly if it's ticklish/thin-skinned. This is also a fabulous way of bonding as horses in a herd groom each other and find the most pleasurable places to give each other mutual comfort. You might even find that he grooms you back and this is something to let him do as it fulfils a natural behavioural need. It's also always good to slow grooming down and let your horse see the brush and let them know what you're about to do - you wouldn't just walk up to another person and brush their hair would you?
Hand graze your horse. This can be very bonding. Going for a short walk to fresh grass or interesting hedgerows and hanging out with your horse, being taken at her whim where she wants to eat (do this without being on your phone!) Notice what she likes to eat and listen to the lovely sound she makes as she munches. If you really can't stand with them and do nothing then use it as an opportunity to have a good look at your horse out of the stable/field to check that there are no cuts, lumps or bumps that you've missed and assess weight and physical comfort. However, your horse will get the most benefit from you if you just 'be' with them with no other expectation. You will find out more about your horse's personality for sure. For example, I found out that my horse likes to carry a twig in her mouth, like a dog would!
Take more time when picking out feet. This is such a routine job, and not a particularly pleasurable one, that it's something people do in a rush. However, ensuring the horse is comfortable and balanced while you're doing it pays dividends. My horse has pelvis issues and has to change her stance to have her feet picked out comfortably. Giving her time to do this means she trusts me and rather than resisting lifting her feet up she knows I will wait for her to get into position and will then lift her foot up for me herself. Even though on the face of it I'm 'waiting' for her, it's actually much quicker than if I just went in bish-bosh to get the job done!
Be respectful and offer choice. When you need to do something with your horse show them what you're about to do. For example, if you are needing to treat a graze with a lotion or spray mentally tell them what you need to do and let them sniff the product. If you are undecided which of a couple of products will be best for them, communicate this, again by thought, and let them smell both giving them time to process this - often they will choose the one that will do them most good (horses love choice and this will enhance the bond between you). For this reason it is best to use natural remedies whenever possible - horses respond best to being treated naturally and can self-select the treatment having that in-built natural knowledge.
Taking time to spend time with your horse with no agenda and no rush is very simple but surprisingly powerful from a relationship point of view. Trust will be built and you will have more of an equal partnership. You will notice that your horse will begin to communicate with you in whatever way they know they will be 'heard', whether physically or through intuition, and what you do together will begin to flow - things that were perhaps a bit of a struggle will be easier as you will understand each other better and have more of an equal voice. You will find it a life-enriching experience and a very good use of your time just to sit in the stable or field and be a friend and companion.