Many years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a private starting of two 2 year old colts. I had met both colts as weanlings (weanies is how I like to call them). One was a very nice sensible appaloosa gelding. The other ...good thing we humans don't run into many of them. I've only met a few in my professional career and I'm thankful for it. He was a thoroughbred with huge mindless flee. It was like he just tuned out and went into survival mode...anything it takes with no regard for his own physical well being. In some ways as he got a little older he got better but when you saw the panic come over him...look out cause he wasn't worried about himself...therefore he wasn't worried about your physical being. It was around 1996/97. Kenny Harlow started them at a private farm. I was just starting to tune into the natural styles of working with horses. I knew when I sat down to watch those sessions that I was going to get to see 'worst case scenario' and 'best case scenario' right there right then. It's not often that a learning/training experience can encompass both.
I was not disappointed. The appy...he was up and going in no time. Riding out on his first trail ride in about 2 hours. He was smart, willing and for him the acceptance of tack and rider was mostly relaxed and easy. Our t'bred...well....let's just say it was about 2 hours and a bloody nose later before he would tolerate being rubbed with a coiled rope. Up til then I'd never seen anything like it...a horse trying to leap out of the round pen because he was being moved and controlled by a human. He had displayed some odd behaviors like that as a weanling.
From that point on...it was the natural path. I explored and learned from many trainers but eventually settled on PNH. It was a particularly difficult horse that made me attend my first PNH clinic. Tucker (and what does that rhyme with?) drove me to seek even more knowledge. He beame a catalyst for me...and I for him.
So on the topic of light hands...I make an assertion....that having light hands can actually mean no hands at all. What is the ultimate in lightness? Horses can learn to do 'movements' on intent only....they are just that perceptive. It's the clarity of our communication that brings the unity in that direction. Back in the day I attended a John Lyons symposium. Something he said has stuck with me all these years. "I could teach my horse to pick up his left lead by blowing in his left ear but it's not very practical". (it's far more practical for preparing your horse for the clippers) So what is the most practical way to ask a horse for any movement... be it lead changes...to jump....to passage....to lay down...endless possibilities. How do you build that communication level to where your body posture communicates your intent and the horse is an eager participant, responding positively with enthusiasm. Love that look on my horses face when he gets it and goes "what next?".
Creating and refining that communicaiton is a continual process. It requires us humans to shed some of our vocabulary....can't, won't, don't, couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't and last but not least...yeah but. We learn to live in the moment with that horse in his moment. (they get up on the good side & the bad side of the bed just like you or me). If yesterday's horse isn't showing up today...I have to deal with the horse that does show up...just as your horse has to deal with whatever human has shown up. Both species have learning curves.
I challange myself (mostly) and others to dream about that sort of connection and in the dreaming start to take the steps to make it happen. Horses can only be light when they are asked lightly and given the chance to respond. How light can light really be?
Horse Lover - California, USA
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