Recently I took my three year old filly to a local show to hang out. While watching a class, a woman approached me to ask the question: What should I do with …? In this case, her horse would fly backwards whenever she approached to put on the bridle. And then, the questions: What should I do? Why is he doing this? As always, difficult questions to answer. First, the horse tells me when to do, how to do, what to do in a given situation. There is no formula for “If he does this, I will do this”. Next, what the horse is actually physically doing may not be the problem, it may be the byproduct of the problem. What you do know is that what he is doing is not acceptable behavior. The real issue leads back to mindset: the horse’s mindset and even more so, the person’s mindset. In other words, it is not necessarily what you actually do that the horse has a problem with, it is the pressure created by what you do, which in turn triggers a response; in this case, raise your head and fly backwards. The horse uses what Nature’s View calls the tyrant mindset: in other words, freeze flight or fight is his natural instinct. When in this mode, the horse is actually saying “I want to do what I want to do.” Sounds familiar? There is nothing wrong with this line of thinking; indeed, in nature, in the world of nature, the horse would depend on it for its own survival. The problem is, in our world, this mindset is not favorable to him, and if he continues on that path, someone will probably get hurt.

So back to the first question, what should I do? The first thing you need to do is introduce the horse to a new way of thinking: one called the alpha way of thinking. This is not necessarily the same alpha that you may have heard of in other methods of horsemanship. With Nature’s View, alpha simply uses the mindset of “How can I help you?” With the tyrant mindset that we mentioned before of “I will do what I will do.” the horse decides what to do or the person decides how much pressure to apply (usually elicited from previous situations, so you can over- or under-react). Alpha thinking, the other side of the pendulum, is defined as what the resistance of the horse is in a given situation determines the amount of pressure applied, plus some more. This mindset requires managing the moment, riding the horse beneath you, not the one four steps ahead or behind. Remember, we learn and we learn by example, so which mindset would you rather use on your horse: alpha or tyrant?

In any case, there are four basic things we use to achieve a task or a goal: movement, direction, rhythm and track. These are actually the things you can see: in Nature’s View we use these things to work on the underlying things (things like problem solving, timing, listening, etc.). This is actually true for us too. Think about it: to get ready for work in the morning, first you have to move; then you must move in the direction of the kitchen for breakfast; but back to the situation with the horse. For example, within a working segment, if we ask a horse to go in a certain direction and the horse decides to change direction on his own, the amount of pressure you apply is equal to his resistance, plus a little bit more. If you pay attention to the horse and let it tell you what to do to apply that pressure, the horse will more than likely change back to its original direction. Every time you apply pressure, you raise what we call his negative pole. The poles within (both negative and positive) are the feelings that let you know when a situation is favorable or not for your well-being. If the resistance continues and you keep increasing the pressure (remember to use the alpha mindset), eventually what they feel from you will be greater than what they imagine (the pressure to change direction). As soon as you feel that they have converted to the new way of thinking, you should release the pressure. Don’t get caught up in looking for an action. Remember, as soon as you feel the horse transitioning to the new mindset, that’s when you release the pressure.

So back to the questions; we use the bridle (the goal) as the reason for the journey (creating a relationship with your horse) to practice the invisible (timing, feeling, anger management, listening skills) that allows you to develop a whole new alpha mindset, or way of thinking; a lot to think about, right?! Just like jumping, crossing the stream or loading the trailer, putting it on or taking it off is one of the many things we do with our horses; but the icing on the cake is having a willing partner in any task we attempt. It is not about achieving the goal, not even about the journey; it’s about the mindset needed for both. The goal is simply the reason for the journey. Within the journey, we are allowed to practice the mindset, and the more skilled we are at the mindset, the more we will be able to follow our passion, whatever it may be (dressage, hunter/jumper, trail riding, western pleasure). So instead of putting the cart before the horse and focusing on the goal or even the journey, we first need the alpha mindset.

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