Horse/Addict Whispering Tip: Putting the Relationship First

What does this mean? How do you do it? What happens when you don’t?
*Resource – adapted from Horse Whisperer Linda Parelli

You know you are putting the relationship first when rapport, connection, trust and confidence are more important than achieving the task or goal itself. When you understand horse/addict psychology and make your positive relationship with your horse more important than the task at hand, you’ll be amazed at how that changes your horse’s feelings about you.

Anyone can make a horse do something, but can your relationship be so good that your horse offers to do things for you? When your horse/addict becomes willing to be a partner, you know the relationship is in great shape; but to achieve this, your goals have to change. When you learn to put your relationship first, everything else will follow.

Take the Time It Takes

When master horse whisperer Pat Parelli says, “Take the time it takes so it takes less time,” this is what he means. It feels like everything takes a long time in the beginning, but all of sudden things start cooking along. Best of all, you don’t create new problems, because you are taking care of the little things; you are taking care of the relationship first.

My two biggest breakthroughs in this past three years came from finally understanding how to put the relationship first at a level I had not been able to achieve before. You might remember when both Pat and I would play with a “problem” horse at our tour events. Well, even though I knew better, I couldn’t help putting a little pressure on the horse at first, because I really wanted to get him to go into the trailer within the hour or two that we had.

It took me several sessions to wake up to the truth that, no matter how small my thought about the trailer was, the horse would feel it. He would feel my intent, and it always led to a little distance between us. One day I had a really tough horse, and suddenly I realized I was worrying about time running out, and there it was, loud and clear: I cared more about the trailer than about the horse’s trust and confidence. Sheesh.

The second breakthrough was with my own horse. My relationship with him was really good, and I didn’t have any problems or frustrations or so I thought!

One day I was playing with him, when all of a sudden I noticed he was a little tense. Aaargh . . . I felt terrible that I hadn’t thought it a big deal, and I also realized this had been going on for some time. So I immediately changed my approach. Instead of asking him to canter again after the halt, I just waited. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, until he finally looked at me and took a big breath. Then I smiled and asked him to canter. What a difference! The next transitions came smoothly, and he stayed connected; no more tension.

But the best was yet to come. The next day he met me at the gate with the most enthusiastic look on his face! It blew me away that something that appeared to be so minor had made such a big difference in his feelings for me. My not waiting until HE was mentally and emotionally ready, made him feel I was pressuring him, so he was getting less enthusiastic about being with me. But I never connected the dots, because I didn’t think it was that bad.

Here is a list of some “little” things that will help make a big difference.

Wait until your horse/addict comes to you instead of catching him. Even if he stands there and allows you to approach, there is still something preventing him from coming to you. Is it trust? Is it motivation or desire? That will depend on his Horsenality™(personality)

Don’t just put the halter on him; feel what it feels like. Is he putting his head in there eagerly, or is he braced against you, or shut down and non-reactive? If you can make the haltering/grooming/bridling/saddling experience as important as the things you want to go have fun with or train for, your horse will give you more.

horse scared 3 Don’t push him. You need to notice when your horse is reluctant to do something and figure out if it is a confidence issue or a lack of trust in your leadership. Most people just increase the pressure until the horse (addict) does it. You can torture your horse because you are still coaxing him forward when you actually need to back off. When you treat the reluctance or resistance properly, the relationship improves, and pretty soon your horse becomes more calm and willing. If you don’t do this, things get progressively worse until one day you are fed up or your horse blows up.

Gain Rapport By:

Being appropriate for his personality.

– If your horse needs to think before he can move his feet, you need to give him the time to think.
If your horse is unconfident, then coaxing him to do it, no matter how gently, is distressing.

– If he needs to move and play before he can think, you have to encourage his activity.
And if he is confident, then being conservative or tentative will frustrate him or make him dull.

Gain Trust and Confidence By:

Not pushing or forcing your horse/addict. No matter how gently you encourage, you are pushing a reluctant horse whose mind or heart is not in it.

– Giving him choices and allowing him to make decisions

– Retreating whenever he loses confidence, no matter how subtly

– Not tricking him (halter behind back, luring or bribing with treats, etc.)

– Repeating things until your horse is relaxed and confident

– Being consistent!

Get Mental Connection By:

Realizing it is a game. Don’t get frustrated or impatient, or you’ll lose his respect.
Just smile and remember the saying “How interesting!” You’ll use this a lot.

– Doing the opposite of what he expects. Don’t be so predictable! Become very interesting.

– Being subtler. When your horse gets you to move/work more than he does, you’re losing the game!

– Not repeating things over and over and over. Horses are fast learners and don’t like to be bored.

– Enjoying the challenge. Mental connection leads to motivation. Enjoy positive interactions instead of negative ones.

Build a Great Relationship/Partnership By:

– Understanding the horse/addict perspective and giving what I want to receive (Dignity, Love, Respect)

– Being interesting, having lots of fun activities and bringing only calm and positive energy to the relationship.

– Being positive and consistent. Be someone he looks forward to being with.

Does your horse meet you at the gate? Or does he run away?

horses standing at the fence 3

* The Fine Print: Cut-to-the-Chase’s Coaching mission is to inspire, empower and educate families of addicts. It is not associated with any programs or treatment facilities and is not to be considered counseling or therapy. Working with alcoholic/addicts is potentially dangerous. Always use your own judgment and/or get the advice of professionals to find the right strategies for your life.