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  • Elaine Sanders

How to Put Relationship First and NOT Get WALKED ON

I always say put the relationship first.

As soon as I start talking about putting the relationship first, my clients assume that they’re going to get walked on, that the horse will take charge and tell them what to do.

But here’s the thing…

That is not relationship.

Let’s imagine a human couple. It’s not much of a relationship if she is always bossing him around, telling him what to do and how to act. It happens, but I guarantee it will never lead to the type of fulfilling relationship we all dream about.

So let’s say that she instead takes all orders from him. He tells her what to do and how to act.

Is that better? No. It’s still not relationship.

Whether my horse gets walked on be me, or I get walked on by my horse, neither situation is about relationship.

And I said to put relationship first.

What does that look like? What do I do with a horse who says “no”? Do I let him get away with it? Do I quit? How do I not get walked on? How do I get what I want without being a tyrant?

In one-on-one equine relationship coaching, I go way deeper into this with my clients, but for now, here’s 3 tips to put relationship first with your horse.

#1. Stay composed. No matter how things go with your horse, stay composed - even joyful. If you want your horse to do something and he wants to do something else, stay composed. If you feel that you’re getting impatient, frustrated, or worried, it is better to literally walk away from your horse (as long as safety isn’t an issue), give yourself a timeout, regain your calm, positive composure and come back to the situation. Never ask a horse to do anything while you are feeling a negative emotion. You can be composed and firm. You can be composed and clear. If you can’t ask for what you want with a genuine smile on your face, then don’t ask for it at all.

#2. It’s an attitude. Deciding to put relationship first takes an attitude adjustment. It’s no longer your main goal to be right, but your main goal to be kind. This will affect everything your do with your horse from feeding time to show time. It’s all about relationship. Because this attitude will permeate everything you do with your horse, start really small in showing your horse that relationship matters. Maintain the attitude while grooming. Maintain the attitude while feeding. Maintain the attitude while picking his feet.

#3. Drive him away. Don’t underestimate the power of asking your horse to move away from you if he’s not listening or cooperating. Of course, maintain your joyful composure. Of course maintain the attitude of putting relationship first. And then ask him to go away. As if you’re saying, “Well you have to do something, so how about you go over there?”

How? This is one of the relationship-building activities that I teach my clients and students. It's best done at liberty at first so that the horse can be free to move away, but later, it can also be done when the horse has a lead rope on. If the horse isn't responding to you, you can switch gears and ask him to go away from you.

It’s not a punishment. It’s that you made a request and you’d like a response, either yes or no. No response is no relationship. So making the request for him to go away does not damage the relationship. It enhances it because you made the request and he responds to the request. It wasn't your original request, but it was a request nonetheless.

Remember, you can absolutely put up for your boundaries. You can absolutely be firm. You can absolutely stand your ground. But you must do so with love and fairness, kindness and heart. You mustgive your horse the benefit of the doubt, give him multiple chances, and set him up for success.

Here’s to you and your horse,

Elaine

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