Shelly Newton Carter “Shelley is the founder of HorseSavvy, based in Perthshire. She says “this article is written by me with Ingela Larsson Smith and Carolyn Resnick influences in tuition Although I teach this and use all the principles in all that I teach it was these two wonderful ladies that brought me to this point so they need to have recognition for it
Her fb page is here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/HorseSavvyHorsemanship/doc/165912296895325/
Ok – here’s her article:
How do I make non-personal, non-threatening requests to a horse? I do it using a mental image of moving ‘Space’ rather than moving a horse’s body. Here’s how I try to think of space between me and a horse:
1) SHARING SPACE: This is where I ask a horse to be close with me on a shared mutual path. Sometimes this may mean the horse is following me, sometimes I am following the horse but eventually I have found that we start being together in a mutual dance of understanding.
2) PROTECTING SPACE: This is where I make sure the space I set up for us to be in is kept the way I set it up, whether that means the space between us as we walk or keeping the space that is around us within a herd situation.
If another horse comes up that I’m not working with I will protect the space me and my horse (or horses) is in from others and often when working with two horses at once I protect my space, the space of the horse to my left and also the one to my right individually so that there are no other herd dynamics going on between them and whilst they are with me they both know that I will protect their space so that we can all relax in a non-dominant environment.
If horses of different levels in the herd hierarchy are working with me at one time I let them know I am alpha and they are all then on the next level down but none of them higher or lower than each other, just me above only, that way they can relax and listen to my requests.
3) CLAIMING SPACE: This is used if the space I create to be with a horse is encroached upon I reclaim the part I have lost. I use this claim of space to ask for transitions so that with this I am not telling the horse to move faster ‘or else’, I am mentally claiming the grazing under their back feet and often then step onto that space and claim it as the alpha might do. Being aware of this all the time helps makes me mentally strong in a herd.
4) SHAPING SPACE: I try to get my own body to create a shape that I ask the horse to copy, once the space between us is understood a horse will very usually bend or move the way we ask and copy our own energy levels to remain synchronised in the herd ‘dance’. Working with this on the ground first helps both parties to create that shape and then recreate it when riding. Shaping space can get very refined, sometimes I ask the horse to just move one part slightly differently to create the shape needed for a move, such as moving the shoulder just a small bit away from me to create a better arc in the whole of his body to help with circles. This sort of shaping involves claiming the small area back from the horses bubble.
5) OPENING & CLOSING SPACE: I mentally open area’s that I would like the horse to go into and as those spaces open I close others mentally to shut off where I don’t want us to go. This can be refined and very specific in such things as gait, speed of gait, lateral moves but starts with just the basics of left, right, stop, forward, backup.
6) BLOCKING SPACE: I use a ‘block’ if a horse comes into my space without me asking or tries to take over Alpha by playing their own games then I will block that and ask my request again. This does not mean I don’t allow horses to play or have their own ideas but sometimes with some horses we need to re-direct their thoughts to something we’re trying to teach them or to block and protect our space if they get high energy at an inappropriate time.
When using space shaping techniques I make sure that I check myself often to see I am asking something of the horse that I am truly showing in my own body, thoughts and energy. Sometimes a horse needs me to be exaggerated in my requests as they don’t see the shape I’m making but that can quickly be refined into more elegant movements.
Also I use a mental image of me in a personal space bubble, the horse in its own personal space bubble but those bubbles are touching when we’re connected and I can change their diameter for draw/drive or to have the horse closer or further away. I know it may sound farfetched but if you work visually then having these kinds of pictures in your mind helps the connection as it defines the space you’re in better so that the horse can pick up on that intuitively. Once I’ve sorted this all in my brain it comes instinctually and I don’t have to mentally ‘think’ about it in such detail. My main thoughts would be on where we’re going, what gait and if we’re shaping correctly for the movement we’re doing.
Thinking on this ‘bubble’ connection we must not think of our horses running off if they have a yeehaa moment, they are always connected to us, our bubbles just have to extend to accommodate the space between us. If we think or feel disconnected it is US that has disconnected not them. They don’t realise we can’t keep up with them, sp keep mentally connected, recall them or keep the connection until you are closer to reconnect again. On that note you must remember to ‘disconnect’ when leaving them to go home.
Remembering all the time that an Alpha horse is mentally strong and very aware whereas a Beta is physically strong or dominant (NB. This sort of dominance is not to be confused with fear dominance brought on by a horse defending itself from a request or energy level it does not understand or like.) Our aim is to be a good Alpha.
It really is all about ‘Space’, how much is between us, is it mutually shared and taking and giving as much as claiming and shaping. Horses really do learn to read our thoughts as our thoughts shape our bodies without us realising it.