While it is true that horses like a good leader- a good leader listens. The best quality of work comes from a partnership between a horse and rider that is more like a body language conversation between individuals. I think the best riders are the best listeners, too.
Humans need one primary skill to learn to listen to horses- we have to shut up. Seems simple enough but apparently it is a skill most of us need to work on. We need to quiet our inner chatter, lay down the events of our daily life and get into the present moment. Then just listen. If the first things you hear sound just like something you’d say, then go back and still that inner chatter again.
The trick is to grow your perception. The horse lives in the physical moment and if you can help them feel good, then riding becomes like a massage. Carrying you is a gift to them, not a burden. This is the intention of dressage, and when perceptive riders put the needs of their horse first (exercises to relax and strengthen them)- horses love working.
The funny thing is, once the communication begins some horses are so thrilled that you are listening, that they just don’t shut up again. My young horse Nube’ is that way.
This last week we were having a body language conversation about cantering, and Nube’ suggested a better canter depart. At first I was surprised by it. There is a different timing- it is lighter, and it comes with this feeling of elation. It feels like water flowing over stones. The old depart wasn’t bad, but this one is brand new.
I am learning to ride. I started learning when I was significantly shorter than my Shetland pony, and I am still at it more than five decades later. It isn’t that I am a slow learner, quite the contrary.
The learning and teaching is an infinite circle- it is like job security for the rider. We don’t need to hurry and we never become obsolete. Patience and peace.