One Mustang directly off the range, One Trainer, Many Students, Communication through body language, Tools used only for safety, never to train
To discover how far Equestrian Art can be developed solely using body language.
Before this week’s blog begins, I want to THANK EVERYONE who backed the kickstarter for the Documentary project over the last two months. If you have not joined us yet, click the link below, we have one last day of fundraising to go! Take a look at the trailer here! I am so excited we have such an amazing and strong group of people behind this film. The funds we have raised beyond the original budget are allowing us to complete the film in ways I had only dreamed possible. Thank you for helping this dream come into reality in the best ways!
The heart and soul of this project with Myrnah is really all about collaboration. What does it take to work together? What happens when she wants to do different things from me? What is force or coercion, and, if I stray into that territory, is it still collaboration or something else altogether? If I want to stay within the bounds of persuasion, what is persuasion, and how do I do it? How do I present myself as a leader she can trust? What actions would prove my worth as a good leader?
And then, importantly, once I address all these questions in my own mind, how do I communicate them to her using body language? I might believe telepathy is possible, and I might believe horses do learn to understand at least some of the words we speak, but this is a nuts-and-bolts physical process for me. How do I step into this relationship speaking Myrnah’s language?
Movement is the equivalent of words in this Horse/ Human relationship. A good conversation contains a back and forth flow of ideas with our movements being our words. Movements might be subtle: looking towards each other, looking away from each other. Or they might be more obvious: walking toward or away, forwards or backwards, reaching out to each other, pulling back from each other, body carriage high and tight or low and soft. Everything means something, everything says something, and then is understood as something by our partner.
How do we make this conversation a collaborative one? I believe it is all about where we take our rests, our pauses, our quiet moments. The message we convey, or understand, in the moment before a pause is the one that sticks with us and becomes the predominant feeling of the conversation. In the beginning we may need to stop everything completely and just breathe when we feel connection and collaboration. Later, as we get better at this, we may be able to simply match movements, stride for stride, breath for breath, existing together in movement as that quiet emphasis of collaboration.
What happens when my horse wants to do something different than I do? We talk about it, we move around the subject, and we keep conversing without fail until we find another point of agreement.
Points of agreement are the only moments that deserve a pause of quiet time. That is how we foster collaboration instead of dissidence in a relationship. That is how we prove the worth of our leadership.
A good leader has a goal and then adapts the goal to what his follower or followers are capable of doing, letting each success build on the strength of the previous successes. We hear it said, it’s all about the journey, not the destination; but what does that really mean? We may need a destination to lend us focus and purpose and clarity of conversation. Perhaps though, seeing the journey as a million small destinations along the path allows the journey to be as important than the destination.
When might a leader use force, or coercion? When might it be appropriate? Like I see most things, I see this on scale with persuasion on one end and force or coercion on the other end where we fall on the scale comes down to time limit. When we use persuasion we develop collaboration and that can take some time. When we use force or coercion we get varying degrees of cooperation or servitude, depending on the intensity. If there is an imminent physical danger threatening my horse (speeding cars, protective mother bears, cliffs or impending physical injury of any sort), it becomes important to me as a leader to step in with whatever means I have from violence to bribery – whatever it takes to avoid serious danger.
On the other hand, if my goal is simply to walk together from one side of the field to the other, what kind of hurry are we really in? There is clearly no need to invoke force, so what tools do we have to build collaboration.
We break the task down: Together, Walking, Field, Point A to Point B. Each of those elements is an opportunity to build collaboration, and to take pauses to appreciate the collaborative feeling. Collaboration is all about seeking out success. What CAN we do well together. Depending on the partnership, we may have to break that task down even smaller, either in time or in distance. We just have to remember, even if we break the time segments down, we can only rest on success, collaboration, and togetherness. If we can’t find those feelings, we have to simplify tasks further until we are able to find success.
So what happens if we don’t want to break this down any more, or take more time to develop it? What if we need to do this thing together today! Well, then it is going to come down to incentives, positive or negative; the clearer we are, the faster it goes.
Here is how I break it down: if the incentive for doing something is just the way WE FEEL GOOD TOGETHER agreeing on a course of action – that is persuasion.
If the incentive for doing something is based on avoiding a threat or seeking a reward to find a good feeling, that starts to stray into the territory of force or coercion in the relationship.
How much force or coercion we use has to do with how much time we have to get where we are going. How much are we willing to break it down and enjoy the journey with all its detours and meanderings? As leaders, how consistent and clear are we at only resting on success, never resting on disconnection?
These are skills to be honed and thoughts to be pondered. Horses give us an amazing workspace to develop our awareness, and then that awareness slowly spreads into everything we do and everywhere we go.
Force and coercion are part of our lives every day, and are not inherently bad. Collaboration is just better, when we can take the time to nurture it.
Most of us work for a pay check and that could be seen as a bribe. Most of us fear lacking food to eat if we don’t have money; that could be coercion to work. Seeking reward, avoiding threat, these are facts of life and functional ways to live a good life if they are reasonable. Some of us may even feel we still need them as motivational forces shaping our lives for the better.
Just imagine, though, those moments when you go to work just because it feels good and you would do it even if you didn’t get paid. That is collaboration.
Imagine if you knew you didn’t ever have to do anything you didn’t want to do: you would always be fed and housed and loved and appreciated and have anything you needed, yet you still wanted to work for and with others just because it felt good. That is collaboration.
So as you go through your days this week, notice when life can be a conversation and a journey with a million small successes along the way -where the motivation is just about how good it feels to live. Also notice where there is something important that needs to get done, and the motivation of avoiding threat or seeking reward is useful to get that job completed in a timely manner.
It’s your life, you choose how you want to live it!