‘That’s A Really Good Thing About You…’ [A Post from 2010]

I am delighted to have found this post, because in the intervening years, I’ve only gotten chattier with my mounts, and yes, I still do think it makes a difference to the way things go between myself and the horse. I remember one time Delilah (*sniff*) swung her head around and towards the stereo when Plain White T’s song of the same name (hers) came on the speakers in the stable. I cannot imagine not talking away when I’m grooming, tacking, untacking, rugging… It’s not about language: it’s about tone and it’s about presence, and I wouldn’t behave any other way.


‘That’s A Really Good Thing About You…’

Said my instructor today. ‘You’re not afraid to use your voice.’

We were working Mal on the lunge, doing transitions. I prefer lunging in the arena as opposed to the round pen, the site of my two previous lesson with the long rope and whip. I get dizzy enough [because I’m doing it wrong] with the endless circles, and the round pen makes it worse. Anyway, I had watched, and I suppose more importantly, listened to my instructor, and copied her, singing Mal down into the walk, and the halt.

I always talk to the horses, and not only on the ground. I am always telling him or her that he or she is a good boy or girl, and I always felt like it was nice for them, apart from the signals from leg and seat and hand, to actually hear that there was someone up there, paying attention.

Al least I had been, until another instructor elsewhere told me off for it.

It doesn’t take much for something to throw you off, mentally. Getting scolded, when I am wanting so much to do this well, is something I’m still grappling with. It didn’t seem right, to me, that it was wrong to give affirmation to my mount. So I clammed up for a bit, catching myself when I was about to say something, and I think things were less happy for myself and the horse.

And then I decided, The hell with that, I’m going to follow my instincts, and say what I like — and I was right. A month or so ago, during a private lesson, for which I asked the focus to be on transitions on Amigo, I was exhorted to use my voice to call the changes except in the canter, which is okay because, say, when Rebel is being stroppy, I’d probably be screaming ‘CANTER!’ at the top of my lungs, and I doubt that would help. But coming out canter into the trot, or up into trot from walk, invites the exhortation of ‘ter-rrrot!’ and a lovely soft ‘whoa-ohhhh’ into walk has proven to be magic.

So, singing out to Mal today was not only useful, but fun, and freeing. My instructor says that a lot of people are afraid to raise their voices. Er, this has never been an issue for me. And maybe those people had, at some stage, been scolded themselves. As I get more comfortable in my own ability to ride independently, I’m taking those scoldings with a grain of salt — and as a consequence, said scoldings are fewer and far between. Funny how that works…


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