Benefits From Investing In and Advancing Your Horsemanship Skills
Jennifer braced herself, trying to match the pressure of her grip on the rope to the resistance that her horse was putting on the other end of the rope. “I have not seen this take longer than two days!” Pat Parelli’s words rang in her ears. “He obviously has not met my horse!” grumbled Jennifer under her breath, as she picked up her carrot stick to apply persuasion to help her horse yield to her request.
Playing with a horse, horse training, riding, horse development, horsemanship, all words that mean personal challenge and growth if one wants to do it well. But why should you want to “do it well”? What is in it for you?
1. PLAYING WITH AND RIDING YOUR HORSE BENEFITS YOU.
– you work your muscles, heart, lungs, as well as your mind and emotions
“Physical activity has been shown to help maintain a healthy body weight, maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, promote psychological well-being, and reduce the risk of certain diseases, including some cancers.”
Exercise for the body has been proven to elongate one’s life span. Playing with and riding a horse gives you the reason to move. It is more fun than jogging, hiking, biking, or at least to some people. Ground play works both the upper and lower body, as does riding if it is done correctly. Riding utilizes the core muscles, strengthening the back, abdomen as well as arms and legs. Total body workout anyone??
– you get outside to breath fresh clean air and experience the beauty of God’s creation
Most of our lives are spend inside, at office jobs, business employers or employees, stores, restaurants, or even homemaking. How many of us really see real living flowers, let alone “stop to smell the roses?” How many of us get more fresh air then just going from the house to the car and car to work, and reversal of that process. Fresh air has more oxygen, less air pollutants and allergens then inside air. Oxygen helps to revitalize the body, and even aid in healing and keeping us looking and feeling young.
– you grow to be more intellectually fit and mature
Playing with and riding horses causes one to grow mentally and intellectually. It is a puzzle solving endeavour. A horse, as an individual entity has needs, thoughts and desires. You as an individual entity have needs, thoughts and desires. When the two worlds meet, there could be friction.
As in any relationship, one needs to engage the mind and use communication and leadership skills to accomplish the partnership that needs to happen so that the relationship can advance. This thinking may lead to a lack of answers that should lead to a search and quest for more knowledge, which ends in growing mentally and intellectually.
– you put first things first
Time is one of the most valuable assets that we have. We all make choices about how we will spend our time. These choices are either conscious or subconscious. Where we spend our time truly reveals what our real priorities are, whether we admit it or not. Choosing to invest in playing and riding your horse rewards you for putting first things first by reinforcing the habit of good time management and scheduling choices.
– you learn to live in the present, not past or future
Horses live in the now. They don’t contemplate the past or dream of the future. We humans…not so much. We are constantly in yesterday reliving the good, bad and ugly, or in the tomorrow anticipating the good, bad or ugly. When we play with or ride our horses, we are almost forced to dwell in horse time, the now. Horses know when our minds are wandering or we are not present. What a gift to learn to be present and live in the now.
– you grow to be more emotionally fit and mature
As in any situation when two individual entities meet, there will be conflict. Personalities and horsenalities will collide. These are opportunities for the human to exercise patience, perseverance, diligence, joy in trials, peace, self-control, etc. Like physical muscles, “emotional muscles” grow and get stronger with usage. We grow when we have challenging opportunities that test our emotional maturity and give us opportunity to demonstrate positive emotions or deal properly with negative emotions. Something that frustrated us last month, may no longer cause the same emotional response today. Emotional growth.
– you learn to care about other people’s ideas, thoughts, desires, wills
As in any successful relationship, there is a give and take in both individuals that has to happen for the relationship to be harmonious and happy. The same with our equine partnerships. To truly succeed at horsemanship we have to care about what our horse needs, thinks, wants, and wills. True success comes when we can understand his perspective and shape our ideas to be his ideas.
– you feel the bond and connection possible between to living creatures
How rewarding it is to have our horses come to us at the gate or follow us around the pasture as we do chores. That love connection and respect speaks volumes to the value of the relationship. It is nurturing to the soul to bond and connect with a horse in such a manner. And it can be healing for the soul too.
– you save money as it is cheaper than therapy or a psychologist
As Sir Winston Churchill said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of man.” Spending time with horses can calm us down, refocus us, cause us to find peace and joy in ways that nothing else can do. Yes, they cannot counsel us verbally as a human can. But they can listen, and never tell our secrets! And they can mirror our attitudes and cause us to think, reason, feel and believe.
2. PLAYING WITH AND RIDING YOUR HORSE BENEFITS YOUR HORSE.
– you can give him a reason to exercise
Horses in the wild move 10, 20 or more miles a day looking for water and food. Our horses, 20 feet maybe?? Our paddocks, stalls, and corrals, even pastures do not generate this type of need for the horse to move. And in so caring for our equine friends, we rob them of the freedom and need to move for water and food. So, playing and riding gives them a reason to move their bodies.
Fawn Anderson , Licensed Parelli Professional Instructor, Horse Development Specialist, and founder of Classical, Natural and Vaquero Horsemanship has done much study on the bio-mechanics of how a horse moves. In her riding and training of horses she has focused some of her study time on horse movement. In seeking to aid the healing and rehabilitation of her horses she has been using body shaping techniques during ground play and in the saddle. These maneuvers teach a horse how to round their neck, elevate their poles, carry their bodies, shape their ribs on a circle, etc. All these things help the horse’s posture and carriage.
– you can prevent injury or help your horse recover injury
Keri-Lynn has utilized a technique called “hill therapy“. This involves having a horse trot or canter circles up and down a hill, side of a hill, or ditch or gulley. Also trotting over poles on the ground is good therapy. Both of these methods cause the horse to develop a better top line, tone muscles and learn to watch where they are going.
– you can teach your horse to think, to solve puzzles, make him more clever and smarter
Horses are intelligent animals. In the wild, their very survival depends on this fact. In humansville we sometimes take it for granted that what we deem normal will be accepted by the horse too. Trailer loading problems, anyone? Water crossing issues? Rushing through gates? All issues that result only in human land not in the wild. As we play ground games our horses learn to think their way into the metal caves on wheels, water crossings only inches deep, and squeezes through small spaces like gates.
Horses become braver, smarter and puzzle solvers as they play in our spaces and live as part of our lives. Did you know that horses in the wild do not naturally back up?? Our horses are smarter as they can back up through a gate, crossing over a pole, and doing this at liberty. How clever is that?
– you can teach him to be calmer, braver and more playful and willing
Horses are prey animals. They trust their instinct, reflexes and emotions. They are naturally skeptical, suspicious and cautious. But in our investing time into their emotional development, we can teach them how to recognize us, our tools, our equipment and our ideas as safe, fun, and worth their effort to accept and invest energy into doing.
Ever see a horse who spooks at a bag flying in the wind? Ever see a horse shy away from a man hole cover? Ever see a horse paw the ground or turn in circles but not move forward? Investing time in playing with and training our horse with ball, bags, tarps, ropes, barrels, cones, etc. will help them to gain confidence, trust our leadership, read new situations with former data that says safe and no cause for anxiety.
3. PLAYING WITH AND RIDING YOUR HORSE BENEFITS YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
– you are a healthier you, more athletic, more energy, more alive and outdoorsy
Everyone understands the benefits of being healthy. Increased agility, more energy, and physical wellness. Sickness robs us of time with our loved ones. Being able to run, or jog with our children and grandchildren, swim, play hockey, or even just hike gives us quality activities to invest time into the lives of others. Horsemanship helps us to get the exercise we need to ensure that we are physically fit in order for us to feel like sharing ourselves with those we love.
Sharing a love for horsemanship can be generational. More and more grandparents are not just learning natural horsemanship, but actually moving into teaching it also. Playing with horses and riding improves the friend to friend and relative to relative bonds. Can you picture your family riding off into the sunset?
– you will be more intellectually stimulating because you are learning and growing and challenging your own mind
People who invest time and energy into learning new things are generally more stimulating to be around. They converse about interesting things and have active minds that challenge us to think also. To advance in horsemanship we are forced to be reading, and studying and interacting with concepts, ideas and be problem solvers. Thinking like this enriches those with whom we communicate.
– you will be able to keep your brain young and sharp and keep up with your intellectual children, grandchildren, spouse and friends
So if your little brainiac plays chess not hockey, then you are ready to match your intelligence with his–maybe. Just like science has proven that “crossword puzzles, card games, and reading provide an avenue to stimulate the mind thus delaying the onset of dementia“, so should puzzle solving done during horsemanship time. Learning keeps us young and our brains active so that we can interact with the younger generation more fruitfully.
– you will be able to help them think and show them how to solve their own problems in life
Investing time into playing with your horse helps you to be a problem solver. This gives us the methods and successes in processing our thoughts so that we can help our children or friends learn how to think through problems and issues in their own lives. We can show them how to think outside the box, question conventional methods, analyze a situation and find multiple solutions, etc. Just like we train our horses to think and not react, we can train our children and coach others to be thinkers not reactors in life too.
– you will be able to offer horsemanship advice that you know really works as you have “been there, done that”
Investing time into your relationship with your horse will give you knowledge and experience that you can encourage and inspire others coming along side you or behind you. What you struggled with last year and overcame can be offered as a gift of knowledge to those in your life who are struggling today. Your journey can light the path for those stumbling in the dark today, tomorrow or next week.
– you will demonstrate that you make relationships priority
Prioritizing horsemanship time teaches us to schedule that which is important to us. Our family and friends will know that if we make time for our horse, we will make time for them too. It shows that we care for connection of souls and minds. Do we not all want friends like that?
Communication of emotions can be a volatile and dangerous activity. Natural horsemanship produces emotional maturity and this will influence how we treat those who challenge us, frustrate us, or bless us and make us feel special. Learning to control emotions with your horse will help you control your emotions with your children. Learning to enjoy your horse will help you to express love and compassion and joy with your children too. Our learning does not happen in segregated compartments. Lessons learned in one area influence all areas of our lives.
– you will be more playful and fun to be around
Parelli Natural Horsemanship teaches the students to play with their horses. They teach the seven games. Normally to enjoy games one must have a playful fun side. To succeed at horsemanship, one does need a sense of humour. This playful attitude will attract friends and relatives to want to spend time with you too. A merry heart does good like medicine. Who does not want a cheerful presence in their life?
Let’s talk. Are you on your way out the door now to play with and ride your horse? Which one of your needs motivate you the most to get out and play or ride your horse?
Rose Standish, Life Coach, Biblical Educator, Author
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