Most of the time when people communicate with horses it's just one-way. People do speak but mostly fail to listen. When you want to accomplish something with your horse without force it's important that you understand each other. Communication is speaking and listening.
Stina told me that it’s important to take time, wait and listen. Think about what's going on in his mind, where is his attention? To understand what the horse is saying you don’t need much knowledge of horses. Just some good sense and lots of interest will do. Be curious, when you focus on details it becomes very interesting. It's like communication with people. How often aren't we just listening to confirm our own thoughts instead of being interested in what's going on in someone else's mind?
Now I am more aware of how often I ask something while the horse is still processing or focused on something else. Stina taught me that it's not that the horse doesn’t want to listen. It’s just that he can't hear you. When the horse is distracted, wait wait wait. If necessary ask for his attention and then ask your question. Repeat this every time you ask something while the horse is distracted or isn't reacting directly.
You will also notice that the horse tells a lot himself, mostly when you are not aware. He has all these amazing thoughts about where you can find the best grass and how fast or slow he can walk. Don’t take it personal it's just natural behaviour. The horse needs to be sure who is in charge because his life can depend on it. Don't tell him not to. Just be clear in what you want and what your plans are and the horse will automatically follow.
When you really start listening you'll notice that the horse becomes more interested in you. When you're having a conversation and you're getting another answer than expected, it becomes really interesting. He is just another living being with his own thoughts and opinions. Instead of forcing him to do what you want, try to understand what he is saying. Use his idea to accomplish what you want. This will make your horse really motivated.
To learn and grow in communication you need experience. As a working student you have all day with the horses. You can practice within each situation. Because the horses are open, pure and natural they are the best teachers you can have. Being here as a working student is the greatest gift I could give myself.
Michelle van Ardennen (Holland) Working Student