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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Renouf

Consistency, Confidence and Personal Space

Personal space can be a big issue can't it.

Ever seen that person banging on their halter or lead rope to get their horse out of their space? Only to have the horse throw its head in the air but not actually move its feet? Looks ugly doesn't it.. Yes, there is a better way.

Horses are all about consistency, so if one minute you're not paying attention and you've allowed your horse into your personal space, but then a couple of minutes later you are banging on that lead rope and halter to back them out of your space, maybe you can see why that might seem confusing to them. This is a fairly obvious example, but there can be many subtle weight shifts while you're not paying attention that can mean the same thing. This is just the sort of inconsistency that will put big holes in your leadership and draw on your rapport bank big time.

If you are consistent all the time on your personal space, your horse firstly will be more relaxed and if you do need to 'get him out of your space' you'll be able to do it in a quiet and confident way, without getting loud and big and without any pushing or throwing around of heads.

It can be confusing. What if I allow more horse in so I can give him a smooch and just enjoy him being there? Nothing wrong with that, just be aware you've allowed him in - on your terms.

How about when my horse keeps walking over the top of me when Im leading him, or maybe just poking his shoulder at me at feed time? You know that horse that 'almost' steps on your toes.. There's a lot wrong with that, and potentially just downright dangerous. If your horse is pushing on your space here, chances are he's pushing thru your leg in the saddle, has more whoah than go, or no brakes, blows out on your patterns and heavy on the reins or refuses to go into the float. None of these are because your horse is out to annoy or frustrate you. But he is asking you, if not pleading with you to step up and be a better leader and to lead with consistency. Horses are by nature easy going, go with flow creatures but they do demand good leadership. Its kept their species alive for a very long time, so if they feel you're not up to the task they will let you know it and step up to that spot themselves.

I quite often see young brumbies leaning on their handlers personal space and being pushy, particularly when they are in a situation where they are looking for good leadership, needing someone else to step up. Horses start practicing this with each other at a very early age. If you watch yearlings playing you'll see them jostling each other as they practice positioning themselves within the herd. They are very good at it and can be very subtle!

Know before hand what you are willing to allow or not allow and draw that line in the sand, and do it right now. This will make you clearer in your expectations to your horse and your consistency. Take the time to do some pondering before picking up that lead rope and heading out to your horse. There's a load of questions you can ask yourself: What am I wishing to achieve today? What are my expectations of my horse? What am I releasing on? Where are my boundaries? How can I be clearer?

Remember too, that a horse is still just a horse so they may have off days, or be influenced more by their surroundings, which may move the bar on what you achieve for the day but never your boundaries. You will find that the better you get with these, the less those outside influences will determine how your horse behaves as his confidence grows in your leadership and himself.

Awareness is the first step, but there are also lots of cool tasks you can do with your horse to help you be more consistent with your personal space bubble. Just add them into your daily routine, be consistent and before you know it you'll be on the way to having a less pushy horse. Let me pre warn you though, if you've been allowing your horse to push on your space, it may take some practice to change that mindset so be patient but stick with it, don't be afraid to step up!

So I guess my whole point is put a priority on being more conscious of your boundaries including your personal space and by making it part of how you behave around your horse, you will be more consistent in where you draw the line and soon you'll be able to do so quietly and quickly without all the big phases or emotion. And it will keep you safe!

Keep smiling ;)

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