When you are connected with yourself and you have literally no thoughts and no emotions in yourself – you always know what to do and you always act accordingly to the things that are happening around you.
Sometimes you very decidedly yet calmly make your horse go away 2-3 steps away when he starts to nip you or push you. And sometimes because of being deeply connected with your true self you will block the undesired behaviour with the stick or with your elbow.
I am always very good to my horses. I love them deeply and I would never hurt or offence them. I don’t use punishments. At the same time I’d be very decided and I’d ACT fast if one of them tried to cross my boundaries. I’d do that without thinking, without emotions present, without reasoning, judging and thinking about it. And it would be good, because I would act from the level of Nature. From the level of my horses being.
The true Boundaries always come from your true inner self.
If you are connected with the TRUE YOU you immediately know what is good for you, what you can accept and what is wrong and can’t be tolerated. Not because of your personal and other’s people “opinions” on the subject, but because of the true connection with Nature you have. We can say that when you are really CLEAN in your body, in your mind and in your heart – NATURE ACTS THROUGH YOU.
As esoterically as it may sound to you now – this is the most practical knowledge. This is the truth lost for so many people because of the division of the mind and the heart that is practiced in the all world’s Universities, Schools and during many courses. For many ages the world’s scientist and philosophers tried to achieve the TRANSCENDENTAL BEING, also described as STILLNESS and get answers to the questions why there is so much suffering in the world by deepening the knowledge alone. But TRUE KNOWLEDGE LIES IN THE UNITY of mind and heart.
And when you calm yourself and there are no thoughts and emotions present – you unite your mind and your heart. You step closer to this STILLNESS and BLISS in you. In Bible this state is described as “The Kingdom of God is within you”.
If felt once, this feeling changes you forever and is never forgot.
And when you act from that level all your actions are CLEAN and PURE – both in their origin and in their final effect.
Without Boundaries there cannot be true Autonomy.
And without Autonomy the horse cannot learn about the Boundaries.
PUNISHMENT is a method of training: I am punishing you if you don’t do something that I request from you now.
For example: You say “canter” and if horse does not canter, You use a whip.
Another example: You give cue to do “piaffer” and if your horse won’t put your 100% energy into short steps you will start applying pressure on him or on the hind legs to create more energy. I strongly advice you not to use punishments to teach or restrict any behaviours. We really want to eliminate the need for applying any punishments and that is why we introduce “DON’T DO IT” Cue so early to all of our horses during my B.A.S.E. Kick-Start Online Workshop.
BOUNDARIES are to restrict SOME of the SPONTANEOUSLY shown behaviours presented by horses. Boundaries are necessary to keep the situation safe for both of you.
Setting a BOUNDARY is always a spontaneous and emotionless reaction of your body to something your horse spontaneously does. This situation excludes your mind and thinking processes (because you have no expectations and programs about what your horse should and should not do). You make a CLOSING or a BLOCKING action originating from your body when your horse has chosen himself to do something that could be dangerous for you and for him when he is with you. You never come to training your horse with the idea “I will set some boundaries today”, this is a huge misunderstanding and a sign of fear and thinking processes being activated.
Another important difference between the PUNISHMENTS and BOUNDARIES are EMOTIONS that are the source of your actions.
PUNISHMENTS always come from the feeling of FEAR or ANGER that the given behaviour will or will not repeat in the future. You really are AFRAID about the future possibilities connected with the actions of your horse. Any actions that are coming from the fear can provide only more suffering and fear into your life.
Be careful now, because this fear can be very subtle one, like: “Am I still doing positive training?”.
On the contrary, when SETTING the BOUNDARY you are OPEN that the given behaviour can and will happen again because your horse has a free will and needs to express himself and to learn via reasoning. You are not punishing the horse or any other animal for what he has or has not done. But from time to time you need to BLOCK or CLOSE some of the spontaneously shown actions just to keep the situation safe.
When your actions are coming directly from you, from the field of life – from curiosity, happiness and unbounded and unjudged action – then it really doesn’t matter how you would call the “Method” you use. Because what you experience in each moment is exactly what you and your horse need now.
Please remember that you never train ONE horse during one session.
If your session lasts for 20 minutes, you know that there are 20 x 60 = 1200 of yous and your horses there. And each one of them need different approach and different training: sometimes it is feeding and clicker training, sometimes is patting, sometimes it is setting the boundary. It really doesn’t matter.
What matters is that YOU don’t change. All the time you stay the same: CALM, OPEN, HAPPY, SMILING and CURIOUS and in the moment with your horse.
When teaching horses to give the legs for trimming normally people do this without any autonomy and without any boundaries. Your horse has to give the leg and stand still until the trimming is finished. In this situation the horse cannot learn what is acceptable and what is not acceptable within this situation. And when something unexpected happens, like a laud noise, such a horse can react in a dangerous way – he can even jump on you, because he is not aware of the boundaries. On the other hand, you can teach your horse to give the leg by reinforcing him for making decision to give the leg. And within his area of autonomy he can decide to take the leg back and we accept it. After this we will politely ask him to give the leg again. But when in this situation horse starts to do something that could be dangerous for us, like jumping up on the leg you hold – we will show him that here are the boundaries that we would not like him to cross. Such a horse in an unusual situation, like when hearing a loud noise, will simply take the leg back. But also we have to accept that sometimes he will give the legs only for a short moments because of pain or any other condition he is suffering now. This kind of approach make the situation safer for both parties. Your horse will learn and understand the difference between taking his leg away and jumping on you – between autonomy and boundaries.
But we don’t give our horses so big autonomy that they decide if hooves should be trimmed or not – it will be too much ;)
Setting boundaries is very simple and has nothing to do with being forceful or angry at your horse.
Boundaries are simply the limits within which you know that the situation is still safe for you and your horse. I wrote it before but I will repeat it again: Without having a calm horse and a calm you, we won’t be able to see your horse as he truly is and we won’t be able see what he is ready for today. And what you are ready for today, as well. So you won’t be able to set the right boundaries and give the right level of autonomy to your horse.
When you know yourself and you know what scares you and how much of your horse being unpredicted animal you can handle today, when you are absolutely honest about your true skills, true knowledge and true abilities regarding horse training and dealing with horses – you know where to set the boundaries that will make the training safe and fun for you and your horse.
Letting your horse to always do as he wishes is certainly not good for him. It’s like spoiling a child.
At some point this child will do such things to catch your attention and to make you finally set the boundaries. But it’s usually the moment that you have been already tired and angry about this situation exaggerating in time and you overreact when it happens.
In my life, I have seen many people that allowed, because of misunderstood concepts of “love” and “friendship”, their horses to do what they wanted. But the anger and frustration in these people grew because these horses did things that wouldn’t be normally accepted and that were dangerous. And then the moment came when the horse did only a little and these people couldn’t do otherwise but overreact and punish the horse not only for this one thing the horse just did, but for all the bad things that were tolerated before.
And, again, this is something that we won’t practice here and something that I do not advice you to do. Horses need us open and honest, because openness and honesty are concepts that are very well understood by all animals. These concepts are true and are part of Nature, and were not invented by humans. And that is why we need to set the open and honest boundaries as soon as we give the autonomy.
Boundaries are not a barbed wire that limits your horse’s freedom.
Boundaries are like beautiful frames that make the paintings complete and even more beautiful.
There were many people who claimed that they love their horses and they let their horses cross all possible boundaries without any consequences. These people had to sell their horses because of the accident that happened between them or simply because being together was no longer safe for both of them. And where is responsibility here?
To love somebody is to take the full responsibility for that person. Not only for the present moment that belongs to this person, but also for that person’s future. This concept is very clear when we think about our children, but it gets very blurred when it comes to the horses.
If we love our horses, and I believe that we do, we have to set boundaries in our relation in such a way that we won’t have to sell our horses because of any accident or the simple fact that our horse became too dangerous for us. Because if we had to sell our horse in such a situation, we would have very limited control over to whom he would be sold and if he didn’t finish in the slaughterhouse. As shocking as it may sound to you now – this is the truth we have to face to understand why boundaries are so important. Selling to a good hands a horse that knows no boundaries is almost impossible.
Boundaries that are fun and make the training even more beautiful can be set only from the position of true calmness. If there is no calmness between you and your horse, if you are always anxious, waiting for something and your horse is scared or angry – all boundaries will be punishments applied because of fear and lack of safety and trust.
Boundaries are not control.
We will not try to control our horses with the boundaries we will set. With our boundaries, originating from being responsible, loving and calm, originating from good intentions, we will only create a playground – a fenced and safety place to let our horse express himself and show us who he really is. And by showing who he really is to us, our horse will show us who we really are.
And this is all about it – about being together and helping each other to understand who we really are.
Boundaries in Practice
The first technique, thee MOPPING / BRUSHING TECHNIQUE is the technique I give to my students to help them to keep their horses within a safe distance, and to maintain calmness whenever the horse gets too excited, or too pushy.
This technique always starts from the Calming Technique and absolute calmness, and we always close it with the Calming Technique as well. Don’t “brush” with the stick for too long, 2 steps back are fine. When brushing never look at the horse, look at the ground and keep yourself busy with the brushing. Neck soft, arms and shoulder soft. Whip literally touching the ground and moving as if you were brushing, energetically and decidedly in the direction of your horse’s front hooves.
When the horse steps back please reward him by doing the Calming Technique to come back to your true calmness and being fully present. Do not force calm and do not think about being calm — please honestly do the Calming Technique as described in the PreWorkshop Materials and become fully aware of your own body.
This is very important because we don’t want to scare the horse and when he steps back we want to give him time and space to digest what has happened and be sure that you are not angry at him, and that are no emotions present.
This technique is successful if your body is filled with the pure intention of keeping training safe for both of you and is telling your horse clearly and decidedly: Now, please move away. You are not asking your horse to move away, you are not begging him to step away, you are not afraid what will happen if he doesn’t move away. YOU ARE JUST MOVING HIM AWAY. It’s like moving your own hand. When you do this Technique this is crucial to have in your body soft and calm yet decided sensation, which I can compare to cutting a soft butter with a knife. It simply goes deeply there, there is no resistance. The resistance in horses is created by the resistances in our body and mind.
The second technique is putting the Boundaries into practice when working with a difficult horse. It always requires from your side a calm mind, and 100% trust and grounding in the present moment to lead the training session, yourself and your horse second by second by second by second.
Please watch my training session with my groomer’s horse. I will be working on CALMNESS, UNDERSTANDING, BOUNDARIES and AUTONOMY to make this young, 3yo horse feeling more secure, present and accepted for who he truly is.