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There are some weird expressions used in natural horsemanship, and different people interpret them in different ways. The following article discusses some of them what they mean to me:

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Bringing up the energy


... more to follow soon! 




This one gets a lot of people going "huh??" - so let's start with a human example. Let's say, you're walking down the street with a friend, chatting away. Suddenly your friend picks up the pace and walks faster, putting more energy and purpose into his/her stride. You will almost certainly instinctively do the same. Let's say your friend stops. You stop, too. You don't need a verbal warning or instruction, you just automatically do what your friend does - because you are walking together and want to stay together.


Horses are just the same. Think about a mare and foal - they walk, trot and canter around the field together, with the foal picking up the signals from the mare. On the less attractive side, what happens when one horse bolts? More than likely the others will, too. Horses instinctively match the pace, in other words the energy, of the group, whether that group is 10 horses or 2.


Therefore, when we want to work harmoniously with our horses, we can set the pace and attitude ourselves and, usually, the horse will join in. Sometimes they need a bit of encouragement in the beginning, but generally it is something they do very easily because it's already part of their own behaviour patterns.


So, "bringing up the energy" or "lowering the energy" means adjusting your own posture and pace to act as a model for the horse. If your are leading the horse, and want good, forwards going walk,  walk briskly forwards with a purposeful body language and posture yourself. If you want it to slow down, slow your own pace and relax the posture.


Here's an example where I am using my energy signals to ask for transitions between walk, trot and canter. As you can see, all I need to do is suggest the rhythm of the stride, and the horse does the same. If she doesn't follow my feet, I will swing the rope to encourage her to keep up with me, but that's usually not necessary.




This example is just simple transitions, but the same principle works for any type of movement you want the horse to do.


Here's a clip of Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, who makes excellent use of this energy technique to produce advanced movements. It looks like magic but in fact, he's just using what the horse does naturally, and refining it to more and more advanced moves. That's in no way belittling his skills - just because nature provided the basic communication tools, it still takes a master to use them at this level!





While most of us will not reach this level of accomplishment, there's no reason why we can't use energy and posture cues as the basis of our everyday communication with our horses. We should also be aware of the power of these signals, and how easily the horse interprets them. If you find your horse is sluggish, falling behind you, or reluctant to trot alongside you, have a think about your own posture and energy. If you are hesitant, shuffling along looking at the ground, or just hoping the horse will trot rather than knowing it will, the horse will read that in an instant, and react accordingly.


The horse doesn't just mirror your physical energy, it also mirrors your intent and your expectation - your "inner energy" if you like. If these are in line, the horse will happily join in. With time, your physical cues will become more and more subtle, and the horse will be able to read the "inner energy". If you are physically energetic, but inside you are thinking, "The horse is going to ignore me." 9 times out of 10 the horse will ignore you. The physical energy and the internal belief need to match.


This is a huge topic, and I've tried to give a very basic outline here. If you'd like to discuss the deeper implications, or have other ideas on this, please post your thoughts on the Facebook page, and I'll be very happy to talk in more detail.





This is closely related to the topic of energy raising and lowering, but it’s rather broader. Horses have an instinct that synchronises their behaviour. They have two “modes” – if you like: the individual one, which we see when they are grazing, or sorting out issues between themselves, and the group one, where they operate as a combined, synchronised unit.


When we’re looking as building a harmonious relationship with our horses, it’s this “group mode” that we can tap into. Under “energy” we looked at how this works in movement, and the importance of our own energy and posture, which the horse will naturally follow, of “parallel”. However, this “paralleling” doesn’t just work on a physical level, it works on a mental and emotional level, too.


Unexpected research results


A few years ago, I was working on a research study with my friend and colleague Konstanze Krüger. Initially, the experiment had been designed to assess which human posture would give horses the best clue as to which of 3 buckets contained feed. There are more details of the exact experiment here.


The surprising finding was that when the person stood away from the buckets and stared into the distance (which we assumed would leave the horse to make its own choice of bucket unaided), a number of the horses ignored the buckets altogether and went and stood next to the person, looking in the same direction. Initially, these horses were considered “fails” – they hadn’t found the food, but on closer consideration we realised that these horses just had a different idea of “correct”. For them, seeing what the person was seeing was more important than finding food – so the “parallel” instinct in these cases was stronger than the “find food” one.


The parallel instinct works on all levels


So, horses have it naturally in them to align themselves to our line of vision. How often has your riding instructor told you to “look where you want to go”, and this applies whether you’re leading the horse or on its back. Of course, we can encourage them to do this. Some will, and some won’t do it automatically, but it is not something they have to learn from scratch. Imagine watching horses in the field, and something startles them. All the heads go up, and they all look in the same direction. They don’t look at the highest ranking horse to see what he/she will do – they go into the “group” mode, and parallel.


Similarly, we all know that confident riders make confident horses, and timid riders make spooky horses.


So, it’s worth bearing in mind that when looking for a harmonious relationship with your horse, you need to start by setting the example yourself, on all levels 




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