The Mental Aspect of Riding & Training

Im going to delve off into some areas tonight that some horsepeople may “poo poo” as mumbo jumbo..but its something I FIRMLY beleive has a place for discussion.

I first learned about how mental riding truly is and how in tune our horses are with our thinking when I read a book my aunt got me many years ago. It had sat on my shelf for years and one day, on a cold,rainy weekend, I picked it up and read it. It was Horse Sense, by Henry Blake. Mr. Blake insisted that horses had some sort of ESP regarding people. I’m not sure Id call it ESP persay, more like due to their domestication over the many thousands of years, horses have developed a VERY keen sense of awareness of what humans are wanting..the only rival to this awareness, IMO, is dogs.

Pie says, I can read your mind!

So, because our horses are SO in tune with our mental state..we must make sure that we make riding as much a mental activity as a physical one..

If you are tense or upset and are trying to ride your horse, you may encounter problems..the horse doesn’t understand why you are tense and therefore HE becomes tense. His rational is “if she is tense, something must be wrong. I wonder what is wrong..oh my, what could be wrong.” They, in essence, fret and therefore cannot learn.

If you think the horse is going to buck at the bag blowing in the breeze..he probably will..your mind starts thinking “hes gonna buck” and then your physical riding changes..all those combine together and make your horse very nervous and very apt TO buck at the bag. If you ride past the bag..AWARE, but not “waiting” for that explosion, the likelihood of the horse blowing up decreases.

Many good older horses have learned to essentially block out their rider’s mental and physical distractions.they make excellent school horses or first time they dont get bothered by their rider’s nervousness..but on the same hand, they arent as sensitive to their rider and thus may present some frustration to a more advanced rider.

Energy is also something I strongly believe in. Energy is used by all living creatures..Energy is what the head mare uses when she simply has to look at an underling within the herd and that underling knows to move..a good leader does have to be prepared to back up energy with something physical though..and why the old mare will nip the underling if they ignore her energy.

Energy is something I could put a name to just recently, although I’m sure Id been using it for years..some folks call it visualization. You visualize the task at hand, what you are wanting, it going perfectly..and your energy changes to help bring that vision to reality.

When I first gentled Pie, the first time I actually got on her, I wanted to get her walking abit under saddle. Seems alot of youngsters have problems with this, because of the difference in their balance with a person on their back.

We turned some circle to get her feet moving..then I squeezed and clucked and asked for a fact, I got some backward steps..I stopped, breathed deep, and visualized my energy going forward..I clucked, squeezed and Pie walked off!

It was abit startling for make sure it wasn’t a fluke..we did it two more times..both times, she walked off..unlike when I simply clucked and asked with legs, no energy, and she didn’t move.

Because Pie is so green and she is also a pony who is VERY in tune with her handler/rider, the right mental outlook is so important to achieve success during our sessions.

Another time I use energy and my mind is when I take my border collies, Kate and Fletcher, to work sheep. I can use these techniques to help them learn and understand what I am wanting, regarding different directional turns and such. I havent tried it by itself, but combined with a verbal and physical cue, it has worked well for me.

Kate on sheep
In conclusion, Having the right mental outlook on your training sessions with your animals and using your energy to help them understand what you want are two VERY important areas of understanding animals.

If you want to learn more about this concept, some great books I highly reccomend!
Horse Sense, by Henry Blake

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ashley
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 03:03:23

    I loved the whole idea of this blog! So cute! I did not have time to read it all, but the mental riding is so true! Think about it, anyone who has ever seriously ridden. Even now with my children it holds true. If you are not present and engulphed, distressed and wandering, etc etc you ride is totally affected! Has anyone ever noticed this? Has anyone ever attempted to just give it all up to your horse, relax your body and just think and be what you wanted to accomplish? Of course horse has a bit to do with the success level on this, but so much as moving you eyes can indicate to your horse where and what you are planning next. My kids totally feed off every stressful, negative, positive, or otherwise vibe and feeling as well. Horse people are in a relationship with their horse and their passion because it is so deep, the sport takes you away, and you are left with a great deal of accomplishment and self satisfaction- almost live drug free, natural childbirth lol…… but way better! Thanks for the blog!


    • slidebythesea
      Mar 15, 2011 @ 11:56:53

      All you post is VERY true Ashley! I use all these concepts, as I said, mainly with my horses and dogs..but Ive even used the theory of energy on my cows, beleive it or not! It creates a much nicer way of handling an animal then whooping and “cowboying” them. 🙂 And yep, its applyed to kiddos too! Glad you enjoyed the blog


  2. Kyley
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 03:10:06

    That’s funny you bring this up. I “subscribe” to this philosophy as well. As a kid I had a trainer that taught me about “visualization” in riding, and to change my energy. I think a lot has to do with the fact that as you visualize what you see happening your body language changes (sometimes without you knowing) and horses are masters at reading body language.
    I did a post last year on my blog about using this technique to train Minnow to rear.
    I had sort of lost track of this idea in training until I accidentally stumbled upon it again last year. I started using it again this year as I trained Boomer to do flying lead changes, side passing, and roll backs. Picturing each leg lifting up to cross over for sidepassing as I ask for it, etc. 🙂


    • slidebythesea
      Mar 15, 2011 @ 12:01:07

      Kyley, you hit the nail..our whole body changes with our mind..and that can be good and bad! LOL I can think of afew occurences that I wasnt mentally “on task” to what I was trying to ride…but rather thinking 3 manuvers ahead..BAD! I remember your post about Minnow rearing, and how you used truly works..yet some horsepeople dont believe it..or they dont know they are truly doing it~ 😉

      you bring up lead changes and I concur. I have an older mare who is so sensitive to changing leads, you have to have your mind totally on task in what you are asking..or she will change with the slightest cue!


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