Soft vs. Light

Here I am working with a Mare that had a tendency to be Braced in her Mind and movement on a Mind and Body softening exercise...
Soft versus light is an interesting comparison that sometimes there is confusion about. Depending on who you talk to you will get different interpretations.

My Interpretation of Light is a horse or a response to a cue that is very sensitive or even reactive or Over-reactive. So there are degrees of lightness that can actually be too light. The horse may over react or move too quickly so the movement or action is too fast and lacks quality and flow. This is for sure desireable in some disciplines but it can cause mis-communications between horse and rider. This can be a horses natural temperament or tendency or they can be taught to be "Lighter" in their responses if they are a bit un-reactive or slow to react.

Softness to me is about Suppleness, flexibility, a calm mind and flow in the horses movement, body, and mind. There is Relaxation, Rhythm, and fluidness between horse and rider whether you are moving at speed or slow. You'll note that I said a calm mind because to me you can not have true "Whole" softness without a calm, trusting, happy, minded horse. You can not manufacture softness with gadgets, bits, and force.

Now let's talk about Light versus Soft in the Rider. A rider can be Light all the time in their communication or very heavy handed figuratively speaking. Using strong cues always "shouting" so to speak at the horse. This will cause a horse to become perhaps no longer Light where he once was. So we want to be careful of training that into a horse and thinking it's their problem not one we created. A person needs to understand the full spectrum of  "Request levels" starting with a whisper and escalating to a firmer (not louder) Conversation and everything in between.

Which leads to Softness in the person. All the same things apply here Suppleness, flexibility, a calm mind and flow in the persons movement, body, and mind. There is Relaxation, Rhythm, and fluidness between horse and person because you are able to effectively mirror the traits you are asking for from your horse. And again without the calm, happy, mind and body, you can not have true "Whole" softness in yourself.

It is always good to ask yourself as the Leader in the relationship between you and your horse, if you can do what you are are asking your horse to do whether it's be Calm, Be Fearless/Courageous, Flexible, Responsive, Energetic or Quiet. Whatever it may be, It starts with us.




My partnership with Mercury is proof that challenges can lead to amazing places...
How many of you view stumbling blocks and challenges with your horses as opportunities? Opportunities to build trust, training, communication and connection amongst other things.

Fear in the rider, Fear in the horse or both are common challenges. Other ones can be about a variety of things from jumping problems, trailer loading, separation issues, Dressage, Reining, whatever your discipline or goals with your horse, you are bound to have run into some personal challenges along the way. Challenges with your horse can be based in confusion, discomfort, and dominance as well.

So here is the REAL challenge. Can you stop, breathe, evaluate and creatively problem solve WITH your horse so that the experience strengthens your connection, trust and furthers your partnership? If you can't figure it out today, can you leave it and meditate (even do some visualizations) on it and come back to it when you are more clear about how to work through it in a positive way?

The last few years, I have had several non-cookie cutter challenging horsenalities come through my program including my favorite boy, Mercury. It seems most of my clients have found themselves also with challenging horses in their lives as well. What has happened though is these horses have brought many valuable lessons and understanding with them as well as a sense of huge achievement when progress is made at home or in the show ring. Something you don't get from an easier counterpart.

My horse Mercury who I have dubbed my equine four legged soul mate, Has challenged me at many turns with his antics, mischief, clowning, dominance and spookiness. I also have the deepest partnership and connection with this horse I have ever had. I have learned infinite things from him about stallions (he's now gelded), the power of deep connection and trust when things get sticky and scary, and loving him for who he is purely and not his talent, athleticism and incredible good looks (he'd want me to add that...He thinks he's a super model!).

So as an exercise, you could write down any challenges you are having with your riding or your horse. Then pick one thing off the list and see if you can find a way to make that challenge a positive growth experience for you and your horse. You can enlist some outside help or even ask me in the comments section for some help. Let me know what you come up with and how it goes.