Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Lesson Notes: An Exercise in Influence

 by Mary Gallagher

 Further thoughts on influence as leadership, which I wrote about here in March. - MG

One of the core ideas I convey to my students is that, 'I don't want you to make your horse do things, or control your horse, I want you to influence your horse.' When you influence your horse, you take control and force out of the equation, and communication is what you have left.
To be a successful influencer, you must help your horse see that you have his best interest in mind. You cannot fool your horse; he knows when you have his interest, his welfare, woven into your plan. Design your activity, work, or training so the horse both feels and understands without question that his welfare is your main concern.

Easily said, but how do you do it?

Begin your communication with simple forms of synchronization that enable your horse to follow your ideas and intentions, building trust. You can do this on the ground and while riding.

On the ground, try a simple exercise by walking and forming a stop as you approach the wall of the arena or pen. It’s a great start to agreeing with your horse that a stop is in order.

Or while riding in an arena, try picking up a walk, then later a trot toward a corner. Plan on riding deep into the corner. As you arrive, keep your focus high, allowing your horse to feel that you have changed and now are repelled by the upcoming wall. Do not make the decision to turn too early! Your patience is valuable for him to prepare for the transition and/or the turn. Synchronize with your horse’s motion: when he changes his balance, ask for what you want. In this moment, you can offer the down transition with your seat or offer the opening rein and allow your horse to make the turn. WAITING for the wall to assist your transition or turn adds value to your plan. This accomplished, the horse sees that you and he are on the same page. Hidden inside this simple exercise, you have introduced the language of your leg, seat, rein. In this simple exercise you are laying the foundation for engagement such as half halts, circles and all upper level turns.

The idea here is to set up situations that your horse can relate to. In this case, he sees the end of the arena is near, and it makes sense to cooperate with your idea. Continue to create situations like this, with your horse’s well-being in mind. You will enhance your communication, and grow mutual trust and confidence.

As soon as connection becomes control, we lose cooperation.

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