A clinic is only as good and as interesting as what you get out of it, and also, what you are prepared to put into it. Last Saturday's Horsemanship with Heart clinic was no exception.
We had a mixed group - ponies and young people, and horses and older people (I don't mean 'old', just older than 15!). Prior to a clinic, I ask everyone to fill out a Pre-Clinic Questionnaire, which tells me a bit about them, what they think their horse's issues are, any problems that they may be experiencing, and so on.
So last week we had a mixed bag ... horses that push into people, rush through gateways, don't lead well, don't like their faces being touched, don't like their groins being touched, are nervous around people, and who have tantrums!
I keep the clinic numbers to a maximum of 8 or 10 and this gives me the opportunity to offer personal help to every person and their horse. I show ways of doing things that instill trust and confidence in a horse, being firm but gentle and offering confident leadership, which is what they all need! The most common reason that horses behave in ways we don't like is because of lack of leadership. Horses need love, yes ... but they also need leadership - it's part of their nature.
Participants learned about how to be the dominant partner in the relationship with their horse (remember, in the herd, there are no equals), which is done gently and simply, without force, fear or fuss. It's a simple, easy move that anyone can do, and I use it all the time, with every horse, to start off on the right foot, before I ask anything of them.
We practiced some leading, using body language, focus and breathing. We practiced the friendly game, with our tools and our hands, all over our horse's bodies to gain trust and confidence. We handled hooves in a polite way that encourages our horse's respect. We did some cool moves with our ropes that caused our horses to look at us with interest and respect. Then we brought out the obstacles, when participants could test their feel, focus and timing, and their horse's newfound bravery, trust and confidence.
It's always the horse that comes to the clinic with the most 'issues' that turns out to be the Star of the Day, and in this case it was 5 year old palamino Lady, who had come from an abusive background. Lady's gentle owner came to the clinic in the hopes of helping her horse become more trusting and less fearful. Turns out Lady, deemed scared and spooky, loved the obstacle course, and surprised everyone there with her cute playful antics with the tarp and coloured cones!
With strong, gentle, loving leadership, a horse's true Personal Character emerges, and it can delight you, surprise you, and enhance your relationship in so many positive ways.
To know more about Horsemanship with Heart clinics see on Jayne's website