Cowboy is a great example of a horse who
During my recent Liberty and Connection clinic at Willow Tree Equestrian Center in Bangor, Michigan I went over the "magic" 45-degree angle and what that means for "draw" and "drive" with your horse.
One of the participants pointed out that drive could be referred to as "advance" and draw as "retreat," and we had a little conversation about that as well. Are you drawing your horse to you by allowing them to advance toward you giving them space to approach. Do you give your horse time to think, and are you willing to walk away from your horse to give them space? Remember, distance makes the heart grow fonder :-)
My key to developing connection on the lunge line is to move with the horse rather than remain stationary in the middle of the circle. Just like any other part of connection, there are three parts: energy/speed (set by horse), direction (set by me) and distance from each other (collaborative). The lunge line is just like working at liberty except I have a tool (the lunge line) to help reinforce direction and distance.
After lots of time working on connection with Dyana, it was time for us to learn something new so we headed to the trailer for the first time.
There are a couple differences working with a foal than an adult horse that I should call out. First of all, I use the rope around her butt - something I would never use with a fully-grown horse. When working with a foal this is a very important handling technique as it avoids putting full pressure on the neck which is still more delicate. It is used in partnership with light pressure on the poll from the halter but helps provide a safer experience.
The second difference is that I move from my position more with Dyana. With an adult horse I never "change" but that is also because I expect that horse to have a much better understanding of pressure. For a foal I need to modify my ask from time to time to help clarify as my body language may not be as clear since the angles are different and the vantage point of me being above eye level changes the dynamic.
I was very proud of Dyana because after only one hesitant attempt, she proves she is confident enough to approach without hesitation on follow-up attempts. Notice how I also give her time to sniff and explore while focusing on keeping her head aimed and pointed where I want her to go, but I still have to be patient.
The common approach to backing a horse is to face the horse and drive them away from you, but I prefer to back WITH my horse. This approach is more effective at maintaining the connection with your horse.
In this session with Dyana (and Freja) I work with Dyana for her first time in one of the paddocks. She has been turned out in other pastures at the farm but never in this paddock.
As always, I begin with observation taking careful note of her "magnets" in the space. In this case the gate is a big magnet for her and Freja, so I later use that to my advantage by placing myself at the gate as a wise place to connect with her. Then we move into connection on the line utilizing the Harmony Horsemanship Calm Connection exercises Square and S-Pattern. After establishing some connection we move to confidence by moving farther away from Freja into a corner of the paddock where they did not venture at all on their own. We then up the confidence factor by introducing small stretches of trotting in hand for the first time.
Per usual, Dyana handles everything very well. Since I always strive to end each session with some sort of connection exercise, I actually choose to take off her halter to let her reconnect with Freja and then see if I am able to re-establish our connection in an area of the paddock away from the gate. Success!
I decided not to edit this video so that you could see my full session with Moon. The main takeaway I hope you gather from this video is the importance of softening your horse through bending and direction changes to achieve connection, relaxation and focus.
You can soften your horse through changes in direction from the ground or in the saddle; whenever you feel your horse is losing focus or increasing speed, think about changing direction left or right rather than back or front (pull/kick).
Keep in mind this was the first time I was on Moon since November and only the second time I've worked with her since then. I also had planned on working through lateral movements from the ground, but based on my observations I changed my plan and rode bareback instead as I thought it would be more beneficial (and less stressful for her) to focus on easy changes of direction with forward energy rather than lateral movement where she might have gotten "stuck" and become resistant due to physical limitation.
Kyle's training philosophy relies on establishing a strong connection through ground work at liberty to result in a greater working relationship under saddle. He is a Level 3L Certified Harmony Horsemanship instructor and a multi-year RRP Thoroughbred Makeover competitor with competitive experience in Mountain Trail Challenge, Dressage and Reining. Kyle's calm yet upbeat approach will give you great insight into ways you can develop a stronger connection with your horse resulting in a confident horse that consistently responds with "yes."