The Gift of the Horse
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Through presenting touch to the horse and observing his reaction, you will continually gain understanding of the touch language of the horse and build the horse’s confidence that you know how to communicate consistently in that language. If we are uptight or hurried, your touch will telegraph that to the horse. He will not know that your mind is still working out that problem at home or the office. All the horse knows is that the relationship is between you and him in that moment and your touch is sending a message of tension and anxiety and he can only respond accordingly based on what you are presenting. So before you begin introducing tactile stimulation to your horse consider your own frame of mind and how you are going to present the new stimulus to your horse.
Once the horse is comfortable in your presence, you can begin to present the tactile stimulation. Before you begin, consider how the mom teaches her young about appropriate touch. She will nuzzle, lick, nudge her young. If the colt is brash or abrasive she may bite or kick to show her displeasure with his touch.
When you proceed to introducing a lariat or brush or carrot stick, consider each of these as an extension of your hand. Remember that you are bringing something new into the relationship. Present the item to the horse in an open way so he can smell it, as you did your hand. Keep in mind that you are introducing a foreign object to the horse, something that the horse has no grasp of. As you did with introducing your hand, remove the object and offer a release. After the horse is comfortable with the object you may rub it on his shoulder. If the horse feels the need to move off, allow him to do so and watch for his eye to soften, a sigh, a lowering of the head, any sign that the horse has relaxed.
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