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How do you think your horse feels about being mounted? Does he fidget? Throw his head up? Drop his back? Root at the bit? It is easy to unbalance your horse when you mount him, and you can also unbalance him when you dismount. Learning to take your time in the process of mounting and dismounting helps everybody stay balanced and neutral.

In the book HORSE SPEAK: THE EQUINE-HUMAN TRANSLATION GUIDE, Sharon Wilsie explains how her system of Horse Speak can help ease anxiety related to mounting, ensuring your rides start off on a positive note. Here are some of her recommendations:

First, really notice how your horse reacts to being mounted. (Consider asking someone to take a photo of your horse’s face while you get on.) A stoic horse may grimace while being mounted. A sensitive horse may raise his head and show anxiety. An energetic horse moves off when you step into the stirrup. There are many possible reactions. When looking at your horse, notice his ears, eyes, and in particular, his mouth. What you have long thought was acceptance, may instead have been be acquiescence.

Your core energy broadcasts from your “center” just behind your belly button. This can cause confusion when mounting, especially with a sensitive horse. When you face the saddle from the mounting block, you may put “sending” pressure from your belly button onto the horse. He will naturally swing his head toward you and his body away, in response to the sending message your body is conveying. To clarify your body language, practice mounting with your core energy turned toward the horse’s head.

You can also diffuse your horse’s anxiety about mounting with the following Horse Speak “Conversation”: 

Horse Speak Final Cover

Click image for more information.

1  Begin by leading your horse to the mounting block and position him as if you are going to mount, but instead just sit on the block for a few minutes (retreat) and breathe with him. Breathe long enough to see your horse visibly relax next to the block. This is a good exercise some evening when you don’t have time to ride but do want to have a Conversation with your horse. Tack up in your normal routine and have a Breath Conversation at the mounting block. Try to sync your breath to his. Observe the subtle language he shows. Take really deep breaths. 

2  Show your horse affection before you mount. Before getting up on the mounting block, check in with a Knuckle Touch. Reach up and lightly scratch the Friendly Button where the forelock meets the forehead. Most horses also appreciate having each front foot picked up and moved in a gentle circle at the mounting block—it releases tension.  Rock the Baby first on his bridle while standing in front of him, and then while standing on the mounting block with your horse in position in front of you, facing the same direction as your horse with your hand closest to him on his withers. Shift your weight from one foot to the other or from one hip to the other. Remember to sync your rocking to your breath, and breathe as slowly and deeply as you can. Your horse may take a step to rebalance himself. Many horses are taught to stand still no matter how awkward and unbalanced they feel. Letting him widen his stance may be a huge relief to him. Also some horses appreciate Rock the Baby at the mounting block with one hand on the withers and one behind the saddle. 

3  Now, once you mount, dismount again immediately, and walk your horse in a medium-size circle. Bring him back to the block, breathe, and mount again. Repeat this sequence three times, paying attention to your horse’s comfort and body language. If there is any tension stop and breathe with your horse, then resume the Conversation.

4  Try a Copycat Conversation with your horse about the mounting block. Lean over him slightly as if preparing to mount, and then lean back upright or away from the horse. Repeat, syncing your leaning toward and away from the horse to your own breathing. Do this at least three times before getting on and staying on. When you repeat this Copycat every time you mount, at some point your horse may simply lean toward you as you step in the stirrup. What a wonderful way to start a ride!

Learn more Conversations in HORSE SPEAK, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to learn more.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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horsespk-herefb

How do you greet someone for the first time? Depending on which part of the world you are from, perhaps it is no more than a nod and a smile of acknowledgment, a small bow, or it could be a kiss on one cheek or two. Of course, the greeting many of us are most familiar with is the handshake.

The handshake dates back to Ancient Greece. It is believed that by shaking hands, rather than bowing or curtseying, two individuals proved they were equals. It also demonstrated that they felt comfortable enough together to be unarmed.

Have you ever thought about the fact that horses have a similar system in place? A way to show when they are on equal footing and not a threat to one another? Of course we’ve all seen the horse-to-horse sniff, stomp, and squeal, but have we ever really considered what it all means…and what it means when it comes to the way we greet our horses?

“The Greeting Ritual is the basic platform I have created to teach humans how Conversations with horses can exist,” says Sharon Wilsie of Wilsie Way Horsemanship in HORSE SPEAK, the book she wrote with fellow horsewoman Gretchen Vogel. “The Greeting Ritual consists of three separate moments in which horses that are meeting touch noses on the Greeting Button (located on the front of the muzzle). The speed at which they may perform these three touches varies from lightning-fast to very slow. The reason for three official touches is simple: there is much to say in a first, formal greeting, and it takes two subsequent touches to sort it all out.”

 

HORSE SPEAK author Sharon Wilsie greets her Morgan mare.

HORSE SPEAK author Sharon Wilsie greets her Morgan mare.

 

Here’s a very simple way to start a real Conversation with your horse, the way he’d like you to, beginning with “Hello”:

1 Use a Knuckle Touch (your hand in a soft fist, knuckles up) to the horse’s Greeting Button to say, “Hello,” followed by an obvious turn to one side. Do this to see if the horse will copy your movement (an offer to follow you).

2 Add a second Knuckle Touch to say, “Getting to know you!” and once more turn to the side to confirm the horse will offer to follow you.

3 End with a third Knuckle Touch to say, “What’s next?” as you breathe in and out softly. This could lead to you going somewhere together, grooming (some form of touch), or separating peacefully. The third touch is where the next level of Conversation begins.

 

“Horses must be bilingual,” says Wilsie. “They must speak ‘horse language’ to horses (although if they have been isolated, they may not be effective communicators with other horses). In addition, horses need to speak ‘human.’ We use words and inflections to indicate our many levels of feelings, needs, and replies to each other. Humans don’t need to rely on subtle visual messages. We express less with our bodies than we do with words. We make so many random movements around our horses that they can be at a loss trying to understand us.

HORSE SPEAK is meant to help both sides of the coin: humans and horses. Just like learning a foreign language, you will first learn distinct movements that are the horse’s individual words. You’ll learn how to mirror his words visually, in a way he will understand. Eventually, you will be able to combine these gestures in sequences and pose questions to horses. When a horse replies with his own movements, you will understand what he is saying and be able to respond logically. Fluency comes with the flexibility to have a conversation automatically, calibrated with appropriate intensity. And giving you the means to become fluent is my goal.”

Watch the book trailer here:

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

HORSE SPEAK: THE EQUINE-HUMAN TRANSLATION GUIDE is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

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