Listening is an interesting concept when you are referring to a silent language. My horse speaks to me without words in a language that flows like a dance of energy and elegance. The delicate and subtle voices are sensitive to my breathing, my every internal shift of muscle holding, moving and releasing. My work is based on teaching people to listen. Which is not a simple thing in todays’ world. Life is so busy and fast, there are so many things pulling at us from all directions, it is so difficult to really be still and listen. The language of the horse is so subtle and refined that if we do not let go of the rest of life’s demands and stresses our senses will miss the conversation completely.
I am watching a student, going round and round, repeating the same aid over and over, with no response from the horse. It brought me to a conversation I had been having the night before. Between myself and a friend. I became acutely aware at one point that a question had been presented and I was staring into questioning eyes, with no Idea what had been said. I was not present in the conversation. My mind had wondered to faraway places, and although I nodded and without thought, gave silent signs of being in the conversation, I was absolutely not. Where does that leave this rider and horse…Where does the listening start…Who is responsible for the lack of connection or communication? Especially when the two do not speak the same language by nature. Or at least it may seem that way.
Have you been there at the other end of this conversation? Asking the question and suddenly realizing the person you were speaking to did not hear you? How does that leave you? What does this mean? Does it mean they don’t care about you? Does it mean you are not important? Should it mean anything? Will you respond to this person differently in the future? How often do you do that to your horse? How often does your horse do that to you? Ultimately who is responsible for the quality of your horses listening skills?
YOU are… If you are checked out how can they trust you? If you can let go of the rest of the world for the short time you are with your horse and be 100% in the conversation, it will change your world. If it changes your relationship with your horse, imagine what it could do for the rest of your interactions in life.
Is it possible that we humans do know this language without words? Is it possible that we use the same language every day without cognitive awareness? Did the person I was speaking to last evening know my mind was a million miles away? When you are in a conversation with someone who is not actually listening can you feel the difference? I believe you do. People may not know exactly what it is that leaves them feeling less or more connected, when having conversations, but they sense when that something is missing. So does your horse.
Riding is a conversation not a lecture. A conversation is like a dance, turning and flowing, with inflections and emotions interwoven in the words or movements. Ballet or ballroom dancing can leave you with a feeling or emotion without being attached to human language. It is movement, energy and emotion, in a constant ebb and flow that conveys so much more than mere words can ever come close to. Conversations take two parties that take turns listening and communicating in a way that, we hope, will end in mutual understanding and synergy. A lecture requires one communicator and at least one listener. Or one that is pretending to listen…
Are you lecturing to your horse? Do they have a voice, or are they allowed to have an opinion? Can the path to the desired result be discussed in a quiet calm manner? What is your horse telling you? Listening requires a form of mental stillness that does not come with opinions or expectations. If you listen without expectation you may hear something different from you thought your conversation was about. That means not trying to make your horse wrong. Horses are honest by nature, there is no wrong, there just is action and reaction. They do not think in complex or vindictive patterns, they do not want to get you, or get even for something. They do what is easier, or simpler, and that’s it. They have not goals or aspirations other than enjoying each moment to the best of their ability. They live in the now. They forgive instantly, even if they don’t forget.
Exercise: you ask for A your horse gives you B. Pay attention to how you asked, Pay attention to where you are in your body (tense, tired, stressed from your life) Let it go, stop ad breath for a minute, totally relax. Now try you request again in a softer aid, see how soft and small you can be. Remember your horse can feel a fly on one strand of hair. If I yelled in your ear every time I spoke how long would you be willing to listen? Consider always starting with a whisper (and I am speaking of the silent language of horse-your aids) but remember that if you have been yelling in their ears for a long time it may take a bit of time for them to reset their expectations. They may be tuning you out, like background noise. They just need to remember that there is a softer way to listen.