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Women & Horses by Mary D. Midkiff - horseback riding fitness techniques for women

Women & Horses, knowledge for the female equestrian; female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

How to Create a Special Bond with a Horse
by Mary D. Midkiff

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The Women & Horses Newsletter - August 2005

I come across people that own a horse they just don't feel a connection with and want that deep bond they have heard is possible. Just because we own a horse, groom the horse, feed the horse and work with the horse does not mean we are establishing a partnership with a special bond. To create a bond means to make a deep spiritual commitment.

Think of a relationship that is special in your life and go back and ponder how you achieved it and how you maintain it. It could be with a person, a dog, a cat, a bird, a squirrel...something or someone that you know you have deep feelings for and with. Is the relationship based on food? on work or training? on grooming or brushing? on playtime? Nourishment comes in relationships in many ways. Sure, all of these things are important to health and happiness but the deeper part of the relationship that makes it all possible is mutual trust, admiration and respect. In order to obtain this bond with a horse you have to be a part of their every day lives not just their existence.

The bond is created away from work, pressure and demands. The bond is created during "herd time" with your horse. Once you have a bond with a horse the partnership will be obvious in training and in all aspects of working time with your horse.

You will need to spend "quality time" with them that has no demands, agendas or expectations. Sit in the pasture with them, sit in the stall with them, hang out in an arena with them, find a time and place where you are animals together and that's all that matters. No grooming, no massaging, no spatial considerations. Allow the horse to investigate you, smell you, nuzzle you, lick you, while you offer your hand to gently rub their face or softly blow breath into their nostrils. Talk, sing or read to them. This is opening the door to trust and unconditional love. The horse needs to know that you are fully with him in the present without intellectualizing or reasoning or thinking, just being in his space and his time. Let him lie down and roll if he wants, let him wander and smell everything, let him graze and you do what you enjoy doing.

You can also just take him for a walk like you would your dog. Instead of riding him around, walk him around on a lead and explore a place together. Go across a creek together, stand in the water together, jump a little log together, wind through some trees together, go over a bridge together, then just take a break together. Their comfort zone will always include you if you take this approach.

When you go out to get your horse, whether you are bringing him in from pasture or from his stall or a pen, meet him with an open hand and allow him to smell you and come to you. Talk to him and stroke his neck, then put the halter on and ask him to walk with you by placing your hand on the T joint of the halter where the noseband meets the cheekpiece. Let him feel your hand against his face as you walk together. Never drag your horse or walk too far out in front of your horse while leading him (with halter and lead or bridle), this is a total disregard for him and a sign of disrespect and disconnect. His head and neck should be right with you or slightly behind you all the time and you can add strokes, pats and talking. You are always a team working together. Think of it as holding hands while you walk with a special partner, walking in unison with your horse is a warm feeling of physical connection and pride that you have for each other.

Once you have your horse tied, start your grooming first by checking his feet. His feet need to be cleaned out and check his shoes. If all that is in order, then you can move on. I like to clean out my horse's nostrils with a damp rag and wipe around his mouth and eyes to get rid of dust, dirt, pollen and crud from the flies and grazing. I then apply InBalance essential oil around his muzzle and nostrils, over his cheeks and all over his ears. The aromatherapy will be working while I am grooming and tacking up. He loves the oils I use and goes off into horse dreamland while I am preparing to ride. It also acts as an insecticide which we both like during these hot summer months.

Bonding can also come from your hands as you help relieve discomfort and pain. Depending on my schedule, I will groom him and may give him a couple of little massages and stretches, or go into a lengthy massage and stretch session or administer some acupressure and magnet therapy before saddling up. I may just have enough time for a mouth massage, or I may work on his neck for a few minutes, or I might focus on loosening his hips. Get you hands really involved with your horse. Become a horse detective with your hands and feel the tone of the muscles and notice what they need to be healthy, notice the knots or adhesions, notice any areas of heat and lightly massage any little swellings away. If he has bug bites I like to put cooling rubbing alcohol on the welts.

While I am working with him, I always have him stand 4 square on the floor, no resting the hind legs as I always want him to stay "into" his hind feet and support his weight equally. It also reaffirms positive posture and support throughout his body for clear thinking and feeling. He can rest his hind leg during his free time.

Already, with this routine and this approach I am creating a deep friendship. I am giving him comfort, relief, relaxation, full trust in my presence with him, and an understanding of my good intentions. My touch is always soft but present and in full contact with his body. If I do scare him accidentally or make a mistake, I apologize to him and stroke him telling him "I'm sorry, I made a mistake". They do understand and appreciate the apology. Horses are forgiving when you are open to ask for forgiveness. They make mistakes, we make mistakes but the key is in the trust through those mistakes and a positive recovery.

Recently, Mary Ann Simonds (www.mystichorse.com) reminded me of the natural calming place on horses and for us to use it to calm them whenever we can. So, while you are riding or on the ground, massage the horseís withers and gently stroke his mane at the bottom of his neck. This is the area where horses nuzzle each other in the wild and it is a calming space. Iíve also used it in stressful situations, such as when a big truck or motorcycle goes zooming by us on a road and it has worked beautifully. I hold the reins with one hand and stroke with the other and talk to my horse. This technique will only deepen the bond between you.

When you are done riding and exercising, and after you dismount, wait just a minute and reward your horse with lots of praise and rubbing between the ears. They love it and appreciate it and will want to give to you again. Then loosen the girth or cinch, run up the stirrups if you are riding English and take your horse by the noseband and ask him to walk forward with you. Remembering your released back and ground exercises.

After taking the tack off, allow your horse to go into his stall or pen and roll or urinate or drink, whatever. Then when he's done you can take him to be washed off and cleaned up. Use warm water anytime you wash off your horse as you do not want his back or any part of his body bracing against the cold water. When you finally put him away leave him with an apple or some carrots or a treat in his feed bucket or tub. I like to feed treats in their feed tubs instead of by hand whenever possible, especially if they are busy mouthy types.

Through all of this you will learn so much about how your horse expresses his or her self, how they communicate, what they like and donít like in a relationship, their sensitivities, their curiosities and their true spirit whether it be laid back or busy.

If you have this kind of approach to your horse partner every time you are with them, whether you have plenty of time or are in a hurry, you will be creating that bond that you have been looking for. They will come to you whenever they see or hear you, they will call for you, they will melt in your presence. What an honor it is to have a loving respectful relationship with a horse. I look forward to it everyday.

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Donít forget to check out my website for shopping on line. The Essential Oils are all available now and we are preparing Sleigh Ride! a refreshing holiday blend for rider and horse, and R&R (Relax and Release) Bath Oil for the holiday season. My plan is to have them available on the website no later than September 15.

Pilates expert, Maggie Parker, and I are also finishing up the first insert for The Horse Riderís Body Workbook. You will be asked to purchase your own 3-ring binder separately and I will provide the cover for your binder and a new insert every few months.

The first insert will be called Finding Neutral Pelvis Position, as this is the foundation for all riding. These inserts are very detailed with illustrations and photos plus text of position do's and don'ts and exercises to assist the female rider in all breeds and disciplines, even for driving and gaited horses. They are also printed on coated paper so you can take them to the barn and simply wipe them off after use.

I hope to have this available before mid-September also. Just keep checking the website!

Lots of good useful information and products on the horizon just for you. I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely, Mary

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