So much of good horse training is about un-learning.

What do I mean by that?
In life, we learn that if pushing doesn’t work, you should push harder. If you can’t get to something quickly enough, run after it. If you’re pulling and it isn’t working, pull harder. In life, often if you give up on any of these attempts, you loose what you are trying to gain.

But is that really true? It may work with inanimate objects, but does it work with people? Does it work with any animal? Does it work with energy?

The truth (according to Sir Isaac Newton) is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I first learned this on an intellectual level in physics class in my early teens. I discovered the real truth of it during my Alexander Technique lessons with Colin Beattie and Gloria Pullan.

I remember the day Gloria taught me about the feel on the reins and how to make contact in a way that created acceptance, not resistance. The key was in self-awareness, my balance, and, more importantly, the softening that came from using my postural muscles to support myself in correct alignment, and not involving all the other muscles in my body. Before that, I’d been following the supposed truth that you had to pull harder than they did,  eventually they’d yield. Oh no, absolutely not, my friend.

Contact of any kind is like butter, it comes from a place of softness. But it also comes from a place of balance. When you are fully balanced, then the only force (if any) that you exert on anyone or anything is the force that you choose to use. The waters aren’t muddied by you throwing your bodyweight into it, intentionally or otherwise.

But it goes beyond physical balance. It is about emotional balance. Think of emotion as energy. Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction. You direct anger towards someone, their tendency is to direct an equal amount of anger straight back at you. Resistance.

During my Psychology degree, we touched a little bit upon counselling theory, including the work of Rogers. But it was in 2001 that Heather Simpson drew my attention to the importance of ‘unconditional positive regard’. And a friend, Dee Stanford, who was studying reiki, pointed out that this was in many ways what love and healing are all about. To quote Bono, “is it true that perfect love drives out all fear?”.

If we meet anger with unconditional positive regard, or perfect love, does it ever fail to dissipate?

In more recent years I got to know an amazing lady. Jacky Ingram was a yoga teacher and reiki master, and she shared with me so much about inner peace and tranquillity and how to bring the essence of unconditional positive regard to horsemanship.

Self awareness is a journey. Horse(wo)manship is a journey.
The journey begins with the first step- becoming consciously aware.

Those of you that read my blog regularly will know that I am an advocate of using appetitives in training. But this does not mean that I believe we must never use pressure. However, if we are going to use pressure in horse training, then at the very least, we should use it from a place of physical and emotional balance. With purity of intention and an awareness of leaving resistance out of the equation.

I think that the best books I have read on this are those written by Mark Rashid. But, like all life lessons, read what you like, until you experience it, you will never really know the truth.

This post is written with heartfelt  thanks to Colin Beattie and Gloria Pullan for the lessons they shared with me that transformed my understanding of ‘feel’ and the massive influence they had on my training, handling and riding. They helped change the course I was on, and I would recommend anyone involved with horses should have Alexander lessons. Thanks also to Colin for suggesting I explore Tai Chi.

Finally, this post is dedicated to the memory of a dear friend, the much loved and very much missed Jacky Ingram.