In order to begin our journey into unity, and our own individual answers, we need to know more about whom we are embarking on this journey with.
Once we have developed enough of a relationship with a horse so that we are able to crawl up on him and have him piggyback us around, we often forget that once we're up there that horses don’t view the relationship any differently.
For it's only the riders perspective that changes, not the horses.
Once we are allowed up there, they aren't learning human communication as much as we are learning to improve our dialect of Equinese (what I like to call horse language) in order to keep up with the huge advancement in the relationship. We are now not only part of their life, but they feel us as part of their body. Equinese is a silent language of touch and trust.
A majority of humans either have a meek, submissive way about them or a dominating, aggressive (often fearful) approach to riding. Of course, there are variations of intensity and exceptions, but as a whole those are the two basic initial approaches to horsemanship in today’s society.
Horses don't understand either of those combinations well, when it comes to a secure horse relationship, horses require a confident leader that cares about their well-being not a bully or a remora (the little fish that suck onto sharks).
Horses need a present leader, thoughtful and confident in their choices and being understanding during the execution of those choices.
One of the coolest things about horse is that they are always horses. It is our responsibility as horsemen to slow down, become aware and realize that riding isn’t about us (It isn’t called Manhorseship after all) it’s entirely about the horses and our relationship with them.
A horse " sees" a rider by touch (feel), much like someone in the dark looking a the light switch relying on a guide (the rider) to help them find that switch (or answer).
Someone looking for the light switch with a guide that jerks, pulls, kicks, tells them they are stupid or are impatient will either shut down , fight or search hurriedly in order to find the switch out of fear or fear of rejection. They would probably expect to find a room full of clowns with butcher knives when they do switch the lights on, just to add to the nightmare. In other words, no good reason to want to search for anything ever again with that bullying bozo. Not much of a team.
If someone were looking for the light switch with their “guide" just attached to their sleeve, showing neither support nor guidance, they would feel responsible for that sleeve remora and making most of the decisions. Depending on the model of horse either Ceramic of Fully Automatic ( Something I will cover in another post) the outcomes would vary. As a young or troubled horse would find that level of responsibility an overload, an "experienced" horse would tend to take the wheel and deal with it according to their model as well. So, regardless of all the variations of how the horse would respond to that level of responsibility, they are still shouldering almost all of it. Again, not much of a team.
Now, a supportive game of looking for the light switch together, rolling through “mistakes" to try again in a playful, understanding manner that has no hard-pressed pressure to find the switch, usually results in a team that looks for the light switch together and with more enthusiasm. This type of guide usually has a teammate that looks forward to searching with them again, and with more positive intent.
Looking for the Light Switch is an exercise on feel, balance and energy, a means of communication that is consistent, connected and understanding while searching for answers.
Remember: We ride on purpose, so being understanding, patient and respectful to whom you purposely work with is paramount in improving horsemanship.