Recently, I have been fascinated by the idea of “connection”. What is it, how do we define it, how do we recognize it?

Last year, I wrote an article, What Does it Mean to Connect to a Horse, to propose possible answers for these questions.

I wanted to follow up with a few ideas about how to connect, and how to build a better relationship with your horse.

These are simple concepts. I bet you’ve heard them before. So when you start watching the video below, I would challenge you to think beyond “yep, that’s important”, to ask yourself, “how well am I doing this?”

Often the most simple concepts and instructions are the most difficult to truly be consistent with.

After you watch the video, leave me a comment below!

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Comments

54 Responses

  1. Good post, Callie!

    When I think of connection with my horse, I think of a light ask…a soft response…a well-timed release…leading to synchronized movement.

    Here is a blog post where I talk about that: http://josephjpote.com/2017/08/a-light-ask/

    I’ve loved your 7-day video training series! I’m hoping it will help me improve my seat.

    Thank you, so much!

  2. A severe back injury prevents me from riding; but being desirous of involvement in the equine world, I began ground handling instruction. I’m having a wonderful time and recently began volunteering as a leader at a horse therapy stable. The kids smile the moment they mount and that makes me happiest of all.

    I enjoy your video presentations. They are easy to understand and very helpful.

    Any recommendations how a fellow with a bad back might increase involvement in the equine world?

    Thanks.

  3. As always I enjoy the thoughtfulnes of your videos and how they are spot on in many simple ways, I like all three of your key tips here. I found also that part of my connection to my school horse was being connected and feeling the horse’s mouvements better when I was riding her, and particularly through closing my eyes (when safe to do so). And when leading her I would match my own footsteps to her front legs, and yes, which is also a slowing down moment, bringing her or returning her to the field. And finally I enjoy those moments when I turn her out when she turns away, and goes and has a roll. Then I feel in touch with the fact that she has her horse world of freedom and “being a horse” which is as wonderful to me as the fact that she accepts being ridden and handled. Hope that makes sense.

    1. Fiona, of course that makes sense! You see the value in both the connection and separate with connection, because in the moments that you are turning her back out you are still connected because of the relationship you have built!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  4. Thank you Callie, that helps. We are not horse owners yet and only interact with the horses at the training academy were we take lessons. You are correct that it’s sometimes hard to have that personal connection with the horse when the trainer is hurrying you to get tacked up and into the arena for the lesson. I have a lessons both tomorrow and Sunday and will try your suggestions to see if I can have a better connection and training session. Fingers crossed!

    1. Good Luck Kistinelle – I hope these tips make a difference going into your lesson!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  5. I wish I had seen your video earlier today! I was riding a school horse this morning and from the beginning I was feeling a bit frustrated that he wasn’t reacting to me in the same way that Savannah, my horse, reacts to me. We spent the first 20 minutes in the arena fighting each other until I finally relaxed into him. If I had used your 3 “tricks” when we first met, our ride would have been more fun from the onset.

    1. Roberta, at least you will have these tools for next time you have this situation!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  6. Great tips as usual , tried some of these already especially when bringing in my horse JOE, that I co-lease from a girl away at college. Instead of rushing him out of the field ,away from his hay bale and buddies, I just watch him awhile, call out to him , and pet him. Today for the first time in 5 months he came toward me when I called. Yea!

    1. Awesome progress Diane – that had to be a great feeling when he came to you when called!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  7. Ever tried “ synchronized breathing” ? When I go into the stall , before grooming starts, put your hands on either side of her muzzle then gently, quietly blow a slow breath into both nostrils. Then begin synchronized breathing with your horse. This relaxes the horse and over time establishes a trusting relationship.

    Have you ever observed a frightened or frantic horse tearing around a paddock ? This technique helps calm him. Just don’t get hurt
    .
    The synchronized breathing quiets you too. Helps with that “slow down” approach the video alluded to.

  8. What a difference slowing down has made for me. I naturally walk fast, long strides and all. I thought I had learned to slow down but 6 months ago I decided to try “strolling” in the field. What a difference it has made for my connection with my leased horse. Recently he has started to walk to me or even great me at the gate. I end up on cloud nine each time it happens. I’m now exploring being quieter , fewer words and softer tone, and I think it is also having a positive affect on our interactions.

    1. Diane, sometimes just slowing down can make the world of difference – awesome insight! 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  9. “Don’t rush.” Ibn is a horse that when I first got him had a lot, and I mean a lot, of trust issues. Not just trust issues with people. But he would be leery of a cow grazing in the pasture, or a little bird that flew by. If the water was low in the trough, he didn’t drink because no way he was going to put his head that far down in the trough to drink. He was so anxious all the time, his immune system became compromised. It took me months, but I finally got him to relax and trust me. One of the things I did and I do with all new horses is maintain physical contact with them when they are eating. It took a while, but eventually we got to when he was eating, I could drape my arm around his shoulders and just talk to him. “Observe the horse.” Now is 2.5 years later. Most of the time, I can walk up to Ibn and just halter him so we can hit the trail. But still, there are times when one can see it in his body language that he’s not ready to be haltered. He stands still and holds his head high. I just talk to him for a bit, pet him until he relaxes his head and then halter him. It doesn’t take but 20 seconds and everything is fine.

    1. Robert, that is a great observation that you recognize that sometimes your horse isn’t ready to be haltered immediately every time you walk into the pasture, and you giving him that extra time is something that he probably really appreciates!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  10. Callie, Thank you for the wise advice! I love how horses help us to live in the moment and to be more present here and now. I’ve been a horse owner for just a little over 16 months and what a learning experience this has been! Learning to watch when they communicate their needs or wishes, learning to make those requests of them myself and to check that they are listening with respect to me has been enlightening and rewarding. Lately I’ve been working really hard on how and when to make those little requests and timing my “give” to reinforce desired behaviors, as well as to extinguish undesired ones. As an example of this, recently one of my horses had taken to shaking his head in response to my rein contact (he does not do this with my instructor, and I have to believe her hands are more educated than mine). I have believed this to mean that he thinks sometimes my rein contact is too firm, and so I’ve been learning to soften myself. Head shaking can also be scary when you’re sitting in the saddle feeling like the horse might do something even more undesirable than moving his head and neck all around (and my horse has on rare occasions bolted with me aboard — very scary to me). This week I had an “ah-hah!” moment when he and I were having this discussion — he shook his head when I asked for trot, I softened yet maintained contact, asking that he continue his trot. Then when he calmed his head shaking down and just continued trotting, I realized I needed to reward him by asking him to walk — ie to allow him that release of pressure. What a difference between us! It feels like we can work more together on building trust, and I understand more about creating and then catching those learning moments — those opportunities for rewards for the horse!

    1. Faith, it sounds like you have found a great balance of having a ‘conversation’ with your horse using your requests!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  11. lovely video, always great to see and hear your thoughts Callie.
    Especially as we (me) can get so wound up with the human work world etc….. and it can be so hard to wind down for horse time! Exhale Equine, is my motto – to bring me back into their world.
    Going slow, is just great!

  12. Dear Callie,
    when I watch some people trying to get the love of a horse on the base of feeding all the time I find it not only stupid but bad for the horse, cause I see them creating bad manners and afterwards complaining about the poor horse. Stupid stupid stupid.That way they are not gaining respect or trust-what friendship is built of-from horses but making them snappy. Even when it looks for outsiders like easy and happy as a result, it is hard work to built a relationship. it´s not like a Wendy-movie, go to the barn and the horse reacts like a dog…I experienced that for me progress is given when the horse feels seen by me..and my response is always there but never frightened him. Like “I see You, see what You´re doing at the moment”..and then”it´s ok keep doing it”or a clear”no”and no arguing and also no provoking him.
    Kind regards,
    Sophia

    1. Sophia, we actually just discussed this idea in our course members Facebook group ‘Ride and Wine’night. We talked about the idea of it not being like our time we spend with our dogs. In a relationship with a dog we have downtime with them, they sit on the couch with us, we walk them – we spend a considerable amount of time where we aren’t feeding them. But when it is time to train the dog we grab certain tools and treats and they know – it is time for training with food! On the other hand, if we try to only use food for establishing relationship with the horse in the hour or so we are with them a few days a week that time they will associate with food. I like the idea of finding the middle – using food can be a great training tool but over using it can outweigh its benefits!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. Thank You so much for the comment! ..on my comment.. 🙂 This community is really awesome! That´s so true. Most of the questions comming up in horse education seems to be to answer in a healthy middleway! I think because horses are more quiet than dogs as a rider we have to look more for details. Like Callie said in the video observing is so important. Communication between us and a herd and flightanimal like a horse is more callenging cause his brain works different as a herbivore. I´m afraid I´m writing too long, but not only the video but also the articles include so many aspects and views that I share!
        Bye bye and have a nice evening!
        Sophia

  13. I love your videos, you’re always so kind and understanding and I don’t feel like such an idiot anymore when I watch them as the issues I have are similar to lots of others. I liked the points of go slow and observe, I didn’t quite understand the third point, but I think if I go slower and observe, that will become more clear as well!

    1. Natalie, the third point is in reference to being able to ask things of our horses – asking for certain behaviors from the horse, instead of being in a more ‘passive’ position. Not in reference to a leadership idea but instead of think of it as Callie refers to in the video as part of the dialogue we want with the horse, asking him to lead next to you, to stand in the cross-ties for a grooming session, or maybe working at liberty and requesting for him to be looking for a connection with you!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    1. Great point Enrique! It is important to start our sessions to have the right state of mind to ensure for a successful interaction with our horses.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  14. It’s so funny to listen to this video. My riding instructor has been working with me in connecting with a different horse than I usually ride. She told me to take 3 deep breaths and focus on the horse and nothing else. The horse did GREAT with me today because I destressed before working with her! Everything you said just re-enforced everything I was working on today!!!! I LOVE YOUR VIDEOS!!!!

    1. Awesome Shirley! And that is incredible that your instructor also values the importance of connection:)

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  15. I have a rescue Morab mare, my first mare and my first rescue, and she is far and away much more reactive and anxious than any horse I’ve ever had. However, she has a very good mind and attitude and learns very fast, as well. I’ve had to really fine tune my ability to ‘read’ her every day and decide whether she’s ‘too crazy’ for me to get on her (I’m 71) or whether she’s just full of energy instead. Interacting with her on the ground enables me to make this judgement every day so that I don’t get hurt and can judge my own risks for the day with some confidence, which is very important at my age and with such a powerful, energetic mare. Because she is a Morab, she is fairly easy to read (my last horse was a Morgan), which is a plus, and I’m also learning to ‘read’ her in very subtle ways while I’m in the saddle, to judge her degree of unease with anything fairly quickly before it spins out of control. Conversely, SHE is also learning to read ME like a book, and her abilities are almost scary in some ways, but always delightful. She has been a tremendous education for me, though my last horse required a great deal of knowing his personality, as well, so he was great preparation for her. Despite her green-ness and anxiety, she has made great progress and has never taken advantage of me, when she easily could. Spending the time to really get to know your horse pays enormous dividends over the long run.

    1. Kathy, it sounds like you have really fine-tuned your eye for observing her behavior and making decisions to keep both of you safe! I love the point you brought up that ‘She has been a tremendous education for me’- they truly are our greatest teachers. It sounds to me like you are both enjoying the journey of learning together.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  16. Callie, thank you for these suggestions. Let me see if I know what the three things are. Slow down, observe, and make requests of the horse, I believe. Is that correct? Making requests of the horse is one that I hadn’t thought of before as a way of bonding. I kind of feel guilty making requests because it seems like it’s selfish. I did practice that today, though, and it went really well. If I’m going to do anything more than just passively watch a horse eat his hay, I have to take him away from it, and this time, I was able to do that more easily than I have in the past. That felt really nice. I think these horses have learned by now that being taken away from their hay to be ridden or walked is an okay thing. At the beginning of my time with the horses today, I happened to be snacking on some trail mix and carob chips. Sweetheart (who’s blind) was curious about that, so I just let him be curious, and that was really fun, and he seemed to be asking for interaction in such a friendly way (actually, that seems to be his personality), so he was the horse I decided to ride today.

    I decided, too, that I’d want to walk him before riding him. When I decided to make a little circle (to help me remember which way we were going before riding him; this was a trail ride, and he’s blind), he followed me, no problem. That gave me more confidence about his trust in me. There were still a few scary times on the trail (scary for me), when there was a little stump sticking up out of the snow, and I wasn’t sure I could guide him around it, and he got off the trail into some deeper snow because I didn’t keep him on the main trail, but we got through that safely, and I learned about how to be more more prepared next time, like to anticipate that stump further ahead of time.

    1. Yes Carol, that is correct! Thank you for sharing your experience, and great work on making small requests from Sweetheart. I really enjoyed the point Callie made in the video that it is a conversation, just like communicating with another human being, in that we should feel comfortable making requests as a part of that conversation 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  17. Callie I just watched “3 Ways to Connect with Your Horse” video & was so glad to see you approached this subject. At the end of April I will have had my beloved , aged, rescue horse Charlotte 6 yrs. When I first adopted her I had no history on her past so it was like obtaining a brand new foal. Having had 3 horses before her & gaining an amazing amount of knowledge from them I decided to take our first 6 months to a year together “connecting”. I can truly say this has been invaluable in our relationship. I know many people would think I live in “La La Land” when describing the bond Charlotte & I have, but ask my trainer, my husband, nearly all the people at our barn & my extended family & they would tell you it’s almost unnatural the “connection” and understanding we have for each other. I hope “horse” people will take your advise & try your methods they DEFINITELY work & the reward of having that “special” relationship with your horse is invaluable. Thanks for presenting the video.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, having that type of relationship truly is invaluable 🙂 Thank you for sharing your experience.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  18. I ride a school horse and as some mares can be she’s moody. Well yesterday was a big challenge for me. I’m a novice middle aged woman loving every moment riding or just being with a horse. I haven’t been taught how best to connect with a horse, I’ve just gone by instinct. Your video confirmed most of what I’m doing is correct. There are a few additional things I try to do and did yesterday which seemed to form a deeper connection with her before riding. This might seem strange but I like share how my week has gone and try to be as congruent with my emotions & what I’m sharing. The good, bad & ugly. But I also check in with the horse and watch her body language. It seems once I’m congruent, I can pick up on other senses. I knew from talking with my instructor the mare was needing a break . But when I told this beautiful mare how much I appreciated her hard work, Her body softened, she became much more relaxed and her demeanor towards me changed. My riding lesson was the best in a long time. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking but I often notice & acknowledge my emotional state and the horses, it just feels like the connection has deepened. Has that happened to you or anyone else?

    1. These are the types of comments we live for – how incredible that with a few small shifts you were able to improve on what you have already been doing and that it made your riding lesson that much better! I applaud you on being congruent with your feelings and I am so happy that you shared your experiences this week 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  19. Insightful Callie, and so true…your description of connection is spot on. For me and my horse Coco relationship is key. I love how she looks to me from the paddock, and comes right to me from her paddock friends. I appreciate how we sync together on the ground at liberty. She reads my body language and mood; and I hers. She was 10 and I was 60 when I bought her. And when I ride her it only gets better and better. I feel grateful and lucky..Great Topic!

    1. Judy – that is incredible! You and Coco seem like you have something extremely special and I hope each ride keeps getting better and better 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  20. Great video Callie. Very timely for me to watch. I picked up my new pony yesterday and I am really excited about forming a bond and connecting with her. Today I am going to just spend time with her, giving her a nice big brush talking to her and I was going to just hang out in her paddock with her just observing her and being with her. Once she has had a couple more days settling into her new home then I’ll hop on for our first ride at home. I love your videos they are so informative and you have a knack of explaining that makes so much sense. Greetings from NZ.

  21. You hit the target as usual, Callie! All of those things I have come to do with my horse,and I know it has improved our relationship so much. I give him a moment when I go into his corral just to be with him, then I walk over to the place he likes to hang out, and I look over the rails, like he does. I wait for him to come to me, and I rub his neck. After a couple of minutes, I hold out the halter and ask if he wants to go out and play with me. After a couple moments, he will put his nose into the halter. I always give him plenty of time. Thanks again for all your great videos and articles, and for making them available!

    1. Kimberly – it sounds like you and your horse have a very special relationship! Glad you are enjoying the blog 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  22. Great advice -arrived at the barn 1/2 hour before farrier this morning to spend time & read my young mare so she will be calm during her trim-she hates this day because she stays in that morning while her pasture mates get to go out-I am prepared to lunge if needed but today a quick walk on her lead line around the arena and a “talk” about what was coming up did the trick she was a very good girl – while I’m walking next to her I take deep inhales & slow exhales (like yoga) by about the second or third time I do it she joins in & I feel & hear her relax breathing,I know then I can make those other requests from her-I’m also sure to give neck rubs & good girls even for doing the littlest things right

    1. That is awesome, Susan! You were so smart to think ahead and be prepared in knowing where her emotional state would be in anticipation for the farrier coming and keeping your own feelings in line was a great way to approach the situation 🙂 It is amazing what some positive talk and breathing can do!

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  23. I am a middle age rider. I started english lessons last year. I always wanted to take riding lessons, but life got in the way. It’s really hard work! I think I sweat more than my lesson Horse! 🙂 I really enjoy the videos. I’ve watched many different people and I find yours much more informative and easy to relate to. I must say I do hear the “heels down” and the “arch your back”. I am a petite woman of 4’11” I find my lesson reins too short. I find myself thinking about too many things while I trot and steer. Where’s my hands, my eyes, my contact, my heels and the back. I have a new appreciation for equestrians!

  24. Love this. Saw one of your previous videos and you had me hooked at the posture in humans, cervical spine leaning forward adding extra pounds. I’m a Nurse Practitioner and that is one thing I have always stuck to! Posture is everything. 1 inch equals 10 pounds. I had no idea this would affect horses. Got my first pony last week! Learning as I go, building confidence each day, but its certainly a challenge! Will watch more of your videos for sure. Thank you!

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