HARMONIZING  YOUR  HORSEMANSHIP


Learn to match your level of energy to your horse's for best results in riding and handling.


By Linda Parelli, With J. Forsberg Meyer 


From    HorseandRider.com   November 2015


Are you a high-energy person? Or is your energy lower-key? Is your horse high-energy? Or does he have more whoa than go? We're all familiar with the concept of extroverts and introverts among humans, but did you know these distinctions can apply to horses, as well? They do, and this can affect a horse's sociability and level of energy, just as it affects ours. Moreover, how we manage our energy levels with respect to our horses' energy can have a dramatic impact on the relationships we have with those horses—and how successful we are as riders and handlers.


In this article, I'm going to explain how you can maximize your effectiveness as a horseman by matching your energy level to your horse's.


Introverts, Extroverts


It's easy to spot extroverts in the human world. They're the ones who love to talk, be around other people, and socialize. Interacting with others energizes them. Introverts, by contrast, are more likely to be in the corner reading a book, or talking privately with a trusted friend. Interacting with a lot of people exhausts them. When it comes to horses, feet tell the story. Equine extroverts have more go than introverts do. They're eager to move their feet and spend their energy. Introverts, on the other hand, have more whoa than go. They're perfectly happy standing or going slow....or eating grass! 


Paying attention to your horse's tendencies and energy level not only gives you a deeper understanding of his traits and needs—it's also a powerful guide for learning the most effective way to communicate with him.


So, how does that work?


Your Energy Has a Big Effect


If you're an extrovert with a high level of energy, it's extremely easy for you to push your horse's "energy buttons." Usually this is unintentional on your part—you don't even realize you're doing it. But if you're high-energy and unmindful of your horse's energy level—whether it's high or low—you can drive him wild (see the chart). The result? Tension, impulsiveness, resistance, braciness...and it can even get as severe as bucking, bolting, and rearing.


If you're an introvert, on the other hand, your energy may be so low that you find it hard to get your horse to do anything. It's not that you don't have energy, per se; it's that yours is more internal than external. Horses may question your leadership and be less willing to respond to your cues. If you're riding a high-energy horse, you may find yourself holding him back and riding defensively.


The good news is that if you can learn to moderate your energy to better match your horse's, your results will improve dramatically.


Solution: Matching Energy


At Parelli Natural Horsemanship, we believe one of the most effective ways to connect and achieve harmony with a horse is to match his energy. We think of leadership as a 51:49 human/equine ratio. In other words, you want your energy level almost to match that of your horse, while still making it clear that you're the leader. This creates what we call that valuable "2-point difference." Overpowering the horse would be more like an 80:20 ratio or worse, and of course the opposite (with your horse's number higher) means your horse is the one in control!


Matching your energy to your horse's is a little like the old Goldilocks story: not too much, not too little, just right. Doing it well takes practice and a keen awareness of your horse and how he's responding at all times. When you do get it right, however, your connection to him improves dramatically.


Be careful not to confuse energy with assertiveness. You can be low-energy and assertive or high-energy and assertive. The key is to use the right combination for each individual horse.


How It Works


When you're directing your horse from the ground, your energy is conveyed to him through






Horse

Human

Difficulties

Solution

High Energy

High Energy

Your energy adds to his energy; things can get crazy.

Match your level of energy to your horse's.

High Energy

Low Energy

Not enough energy on a high-energy horse will cause him to doubt your leadership.

Progressively raise your energy to match your horse's, but without adding to it.

Low Energy

Low Energy

Great as long as you don't want to do much! A low-energy horse is a great confidence-builder, but for performance, you'll need to learn how to coax more energy from him.

When you want more performance, start low and build from there. Use exercises like frequent transitions to motivate your horse. As he starts to offer more energy, you can raise yours, too.

Low Energy

High Energy

This combination is really worrying for horses. Some will shut down, some will resist, some will explode!

Start low and build carefully from there. Use exercises like frequent transitions to motivate your horse, gently asking for more energy rather than pushing strongly.



your body language, positioning, facial expression, and sense of urgency. Squared shoulders, [erect spine, lifted chest, and facing your horse directly with an intent expression all transmit high energy. Loosened shoulders, a more relaxed body position, angling yourself a bit in relation to the horse, and maintaining a softer facial expression all transmit lower energy.


When you're riding, your energy level comes primarily from your sense of urgency and whatever tension is in your mind or emotions or muscles—positively or negatively. Tight muscles and a tight mind along with strong pushing from your seat and legs transmits high energy; a more following seat and softer leg cues transits lower energy. The energy chart shows the various combinations of energy that might exist, their effects on the horse, and how the rider/handler's energy can be modified to correct and improve the connection.


Your goal, remember, is to match your horse's intensity—or lack thereof—while still maintaining that 2-point edge. 


Linda Parelli and her husband, Pat, own Parelli Natural Horsemanship and present clinics and demonstrations worldwide. Learn more about their philosophy and check their schedule of presentations at parellinaturalhorsetraining.com.

'But That's Not Me!'

Be aware that changing your energy can seem disturbing at first, because it feels so "unlike you." When high-energy people have to lower their energy, it can make them feel passive and ineffective. They don't feel properly focused on their goal.


By contrast, when low-energy people have to raise their energy, it can make them feel emotional, even angry! Patience with an aura of calmness is more their mode, and they typically raise their energy only when they're upset.


With practice, though, changing your energy up and down to match your horse's will become second nature, enabling you to keep the best possible connection to him at all times.


November 2015   HorseandRider.com


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WELL  THERE  MAY  BE  SOME  FINE  TRUTH  TO  ALL  THIS;  READING  YOUR  HORSE  IS  IMPORTANT;  MY  HORSE  GOLDIE  IS  HIGH  ENERGY  OVERALL,  BUT  I'VE  TAUGHT  HER  TO  CONTROL  HER  ENERGY  FOR  THE  MOST  PART.  OKAY  GETTING  SPECIFIC:  THERE  ARE  DAYS  WHEN  SHE  IS  JUST  ACHING  TO  BLAST  AWAY  IN  A  FULL  GALLOP.  SHE  TELLS  ME  BY  PULLING  ON  THE  BIT  AND  BOBBING  HER  HEAD;  SHE'S  TELLING  ME  TO  LET  HER  RIP.  SOMETIMES  I  HAVE  TO  CALM  HER  DOWN  BY  BACKING  HER  UP  20  FEET  OR  SO.  WITH  A  STERN  "NO!"  I  CAN  GET  HER  SETTLED.  RIDING  IN  THE  INDOOR  ARENA  SHE  TENDS  TO  BE  LESS  LIKE  I'VE  JUST  MENTIONED.  BUT  SHE  STILL  CAN  GET  ACROSS  TO  ME  SHE  WANTS  A  FULL  OUT  GALLOP.  SO  OVER  THE  10  YEARS  TO  DATE  I'VE  HAD  HER,  WE  BOTH  CAN  ADJUST.  OVERALL  I'M  HIGH  ENERGY  AND  SO  IS  SHE.


THE  PROBLEM  I  SEE  IN  ALL  OF  THIS  IS,  IF  YOU  ARE  JUST  A  RIDER  FOR  PLEASURE [NOT  A  CLASS  "A"  RIDER  GOING  INTO  A  CLASS  "A"  COMPETITION],  YOU  REALLY  NEED  TO  BE  ABLE  TO  EVALUATE [OR  GET  A  PRO  TRAINER  TO  ASSES  YOU]  YOURSELF  AND  GET  THE  HORSE  THAT  IS  BEST  FOR  YOUR  ABILITY  IN  RIDING.  TRYING  TO  MOVE  YOURSELF  UP  OR  DOWN,  FOR  MOST  PEOPLE  I'VE  SEEN [WHO  ARE  NOT  WANTING  TO  COMPETE]  IS  VERY  DIFFICULT,  AND  VERY  UNCOMFORTABLE  FOR  THEM.


YOU  MUST  DECIDE  WHAT  YOU  WANT  FROM  HORSE  RIDING,  AND  GET  THE  SUITABLE  HORSE  TO  FIT  YOUR  LEVEL  OF  SKILL.  PEOPLE  I'VE  SEEN  IN  THIS  CATEGORY  ARE  HAPPY  WITH  A  WALK,  TROT,  AND  SLOW  CANTER/LOPE;  SO  THEIR  HORSE  MUST  NOT  BE  HIGH  ENERGY.  THEIR  PERSONALITY  AND  SKILL   WOULD  NOT  BE  ABLE  TO  HANDLE  A  HIGH  ENERGY  HORSE.  SUCH  PEOPLE  CAN  NOT  MOVE  UP  IN  ENERGY,  AND  WOULD  BE  SCARED  STIFF  TO  RIDE  A  HIGH  ENERGY  HORSE.


THE  ABOVE  ARTICLE  IS  GOOD  ONLY  TO  A  POINT;  BEST  IS  TO  FIND  THE  HORSE  THAT  FITS  YOUR  PERSONALITY  AND  ENERGY.


Keith Hunt