ÔĽŅ 5 Questions for a Great Equine Partnership

5 Questions for a Great Equine Partnership

Submitted by: Shari Goodwin
Phone: 540-364-9505
Email Address: shari(at)jaeger2.com
Date Added: 12/6/2017

After working with horses and humans for over 30 years, I've noticed parallels between three basic factors that make fantastic business teams and outstanding equine partnerships. I've also noticed many relationships that suffer greatly because of a lack of understanding. A lack of understanding results in stress and high turnover both at work and with horses. In the case of horses, many are cast aside, misunderstood, or sold multiple times. To have a truly enjoyable partnership with your horse, you must assess the three basic factors and then consider five key questions. This will give you insight into what you can do to enhance your relationship. Let's first explore the three basic factors then we'll look at the key questions.
At one point, I was an executive recruiter and interviewed hundreds of people for a variety of positions from information technology experts to top executives. Regardless of professional level, I reviewed three factors to determine if a candidate was appropriate: competence, willingness and fit. These factors can also be used for assessing your partnership with your horse.
1. Competence: Can he do the job? Does he have enough training to do what you're asking? If not, step back, figure out what he needs, and give to him.
2. Willingness: Does he like the job? Does he like his work or the type of work you plan to do? If not, offer him a different job or another approach to the work. There is no "one way" to do anything. The best way is the one that works. Be creative. Adjust your riding style to what he wants to do if you really like him. And don't be afraid to let him move on to a new owner. The horse that continually balks at jumping may be a dream dressage horse for someone else.
3. Fit: Do you enjoy working with him? This is critically important, especially for amateurs. We all have limited time and energy and if you're not having fun with your horse, you're doing yourself a disservice. I held on to horses way too long because I "loved" them, but they were not a good fit. My problem is that I get emotionally invested in my horses and see potential in everything. This can blur my vision and make it tricky to figure out what's really going on.
If your horse is competent, willing, and you enjoy riding him, congratulations! You're well on your way to a fantastic partnership.
Now that you know the three factors, let's probe a little deeper with the five key questions. You must know the answers to these to help develop a strong partnership. Be as honest as you can. If you don't know the answer, investigate and find out. Note: this involves taking a close look at yourself. Sometimes what you find feels great and sometimes it's a bit humbling. If nothing else, horses will keep you humble.
1. What inspires and motivates your horse? If you know the answer to this question, you can always set your horse up for success. Pay attention to what draws her interest and engagement and know her strengths. One of my horses will do anything for a tiny treat. Another is super curious and loves new places, patterns and feels in the tack. Another loves routine, praise and showing off what he knows, but gets nervous and insecure with change. One of my horses hated schooling dressage more than once a week. If I allowed her to jump, gallop, and go on a hack, she would give the most impressive dressage ride at a combined test or combined training event. This made me nervous since I didn't think we had practiced enough, but for her, that's all she needed. Play to your horse's strengths - honor and celebrate what's easy for them and this will make working through tough areas more tolerable. As with humans, if you use your horse's strengths, life is much more fun and you and your equine partner feel successful.
2. What patterns do you observe in interacting with your horse? Consider how she approaches you in the stall and in the field. How does she behave while grooming, tacking up and mounting? Does she move toward you, away from you, or freeze and stop breathing? Does she move at your first request or do you have to ask multiple times? How do you behave in situations? What feels good? What causes you stress? This is all information about your relationship.
3. What is your deepest fear about your riding relationship? Get really honest with your answer, it will help you gain awareness. One of my fears was that I wasn't good enough to ride the horse properly. All that self-doubt started to erode my training and natural feel. Another fear was that I was going to get injured again (I once had a wreck that resulted in a titanium rod in my femur). I rode several quiet horses to help me regain confidence before getting back on my young horse. This question is very personal and addressing it directly will help you overcome your fears. Burying fear only makes it worse. Perhaps find a coach who can help you.
4. How does that fear show up in your equine relationship? This may be the most difficult question of all. Look back at the patterns you noticed in the earlier question. Where may fear be impacting those patterns? Where else is fear showing up and stopping you? For me, fear showed up in the tack with one horse as he refused to move forward. He would suck back and kick out when I took up the reins and asked for a trot or canter. He was a big mover and I was giving conflicting messages. One trainer told me to use spurs and touch him with the whip. But that wasn't the real fix. His power scared me and although my legs said "go," my mind said, "no please don't go" at the same time. This began to make him confused and angry. Rightfully so. I had to work on some trust to get to the heart of that one. We spent a lot of time doing ground work and reconnecting and I never needed to use spurs with him after that.
5. What are you willing to do to have a fantastic relationship? A fantastic riding relationship is one of the most amazing partnerships you will ever have. It takes commitment, self-awareness, willingness to change, and a lot of work. However, with the right partnership, this is much easier. And really fun. How committed are you?
A great riding relationship is quite physical and requires a lot of practice. But the mental and emotional side is at least as important. Almost anyone can be taught to apply basic aids. Only those willing to consider the three factors, ponder the five questions, and explore the mental and emotional side can find the beauty of a true partnership. Here's to happy riding!
Shari J Goodwin is a business strategist, leadership coach, speaker, equine relationship specialist, and author of the Amazon best seller, "Take the Reins! 7 Secrets to Inspired Leadership." She runs Alpha Horse Leadership Training for HUMANS™ - a world class equine-assisted leadership program – from her farm in Marshall, VA. Shari can be reached at www.jaeger2.com.

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