Ear Pinning

I encourage expressiveness in my horses
Ear pinning is another debated topic amongst many horse people. I wrote a short time ago about tail swishing and some reasons horses do it. I feel that Ear Pinning warrants exploring as well.

First of all, I value both of these behaviors because they are ways horses communicate with each other and us. I have learned to pay very close attention to the timing and placement of these communications in all the horses I come in contact with.It gives me insight into many things the horse is trying to "say" whether it is to me or another horse or animal.

Here are several reasons I have seen ear pinning displayed:

  1. Horse wanting other horse( or human) to move (off food, territory or another horse)
  2. Horse does not agree with other horse or humans actions. (*Note I said "agree" does not make said actions right or wrong)
  3. Horse does not like the feeling of something (maybe it is ticklish or annoying in some way)
  4. Horse is in genuine discomfort or illness
  5. Horse is this type of horsenality (opinionated) (some horses are more likely to pin and communicate this way because they are dominant, big horsenalities and quick to assert themselves)
  6. In a so called "aggressive" horse (in my experience usually an abused horse that has become defensive but can just be a bully) it can be a warning of aggressive behavior ie. biting and kicking

In my Training work, I have to put the Communication in context to know how it fits in and how to proceed. I think it is wrong to assume when a horse pins there ears you are doing something "wrong" It could be as simple as what I call "a difference of opinion" between horse and person or horse and other horse. When people have differences of opinion, we will let the person know. Sometimes we can agree to disagree and sometimes we can get the horse to agree if we acknowledge this disagreement and "talk" it over together. Often when I see this communication, I will say out loud to the horse "I am listening and I see your point" "I definitely see how you could see it that way" Then I think of how I could communicate to them so we can have a meeting of the minds. This acknowledgement of their opinions and feelings allows me to shape the work around the horse.

I tend to attract and work with many very Dominant horses who have learned to be pushy and even dangerous to handle. When they come to me. They have usually developed these patterns for two reasons. They were handled by people who may not have had the tools to communicate with this type of horse, or the horse has been abused and instead of shutting down has learned to protect himself.
Both these horses can be communicated to in different ways but they may exhibit pinned ears for different reasons. The Dominant horses may not like having to reason with me at first and my requests for more space around food or to move off or away. They will often give me huffy expressions and swishes and ears back in a "who do you think you are to move me away from my food!" "I do the moving around here" Once they understand my requests and that I will quickly praise the right choices. Ears are forward and expression becomes "hmm you are asking interesting questions...I am interested in what you have to say!"  They know that I will always listen to them and they will be heard.

Mercury is Dominant and food territorial and will pin his ears if asked to stand back from his food at times. It is easy for me to see why he would do that around that request.

So when you see this communication pay close attention. If you don't know the horse well, be cautious until you know the context of the Ear pinning and what they are trying to say. See if you can learn to read this communication by watching how horses use it amongst themselves. More oats for thought.


6 things...

We tend to focus a lot on "doing" things "right" with our horses. The right riding, the right training, the right equipment etc.

I often say to people your horse doesn't care about how well you ride or whether you think he's so much more talented then you can do justice, or whether he's not exploring his potential. These are people projections. What horses seek from us is Connection, Clarity, Authenticity, Leadership, Joy, and being Present in whatever we happen to be "doing" or "not doing" together. We tend to bring a lot of mental clutter to our horses and that clutter clouds our connection.

So let's break these down one by one:

Connection: Means taking the time to form a friendship and bond with your horse through exercises like Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals. Then taking that Connection to everything else you do with your horse.

Clarity: Falls under the "no mental clutter" rule. Being clear about your communication and intention and not worrying about anything else will create a pleasant and frustration free exchange between you and your horse.

Authenticity: Means being real with yourself and your horse. Not being perfect, being real. Acknowledging fear, frustration, limitations, negative thinking and emotions are a pathway to mental clarity and freedom to just be where you are each day with your horse without judgement towards you or your horse.

Leadership: is an a term which can mean a lot of things. In my world it means looking out for my horses needs as much as my own, mutual respect, Taking care of each other. and never putting my horse in a position where he cannot trust me to make the best possible decision with both our needs in mind.

Joy: should be present as much as possible when you are with your horse. Authenticity allows you to be with your horse and say, I'm frustrated right now, or I am angry or sad. This is ok, it's real. But don't take it out on your horse and don't pretend you are not having these feelings. You aren't fooling your horse. Recognize it and acknowledge it, he has. For most of us. Our horses bring us instant joy on sight. I know that my horse actually can uplift me from these feelings so he actually helps me feel joy. Remember, we are mirrors.

Being Present: Not only is this important, it is tantamount to your safety around a horse or in life in general. It is also tantamount to your richness of experience and connection with your horse and life. If you are not present, you cannot connect to anyone or any being. You are also not aware of the subtle exchanges that are so important to the deep Connection. The things I focus on in my time with horses are so small and fine and yet so big in effect on the whole, it is what I help people focus on more and more in my teaching. The little things that have a huge impact.

If you can remember things when you are with your horse, you will always enjoy the interaction and your horse will too. More oats for thought.


Horsemanship for Wellbeing

I'd like to talk about Well-being and how we can approach our horsemanship with both of our Well being as a priority.

As a trainer who does Yoga, I very much bring the Yogic mind to my work, teaching and training. This is not only in the physical sense of a flexible strong posture, but also the mind-body connection.

In pursuit of the best relationship and training program possible with my horse. I must focus first on the Connection and Friendship, Then I must stay mindful of who my horse is, where they are in there physical state, and what is most fun, healthy and beneficial to them.

Combining a Natural Approach to Classical Dressage with Yoga and Physical Therapy Principles allows me to bring my horses along in a way that is supportive to not just their bodies but their minds as well. I see myself as a sort Yoga instructor/Physical therapist for my horses. Part of my daily work is to come up with gentle supportive Liberty-Line-Mounted progressions that are not only beneficial but fun for both of us. In Yoga, you never push the body beyond what it can comfortably do and still stay breathing and relaxed. You listen to the body very carefully and do just enough to have a benefit.

An important mind set to have when working with a horse is that you are a Physical therapist or Yoga instructor. I call it staying in the PTYI (Physical Therapist/Yoga Instructor) mind. When we stay in this mind, we wont push a horse harder then is beneficial for their Well being. When you introduce an exercise, Imagine it is your horses' first Yoga or PT session ever. Then imagine yourself having to go to your first Yoga/Pilates class. You would like an instructor who would not ask you for anything harder then you could do. If you were sore and even injured after the first session, you most certainly wouldn't want to go back for another session.

Classical Dressage is in fact Yoga/Pilates/Physical Therapy for horses. It belongs in every program regardless of discipline as the training foundation. Thoughtfully and conscientiously applied, it can improve your connection further with your horse on the ground and mounted. It can help your horses mind-body connection and can rehabilitate some horses that have extreme Symmetry issues. 

It can become a form of meditation together if you avoid the Left brain, perfection, hamster wheel trap so many people fall into. Each day you can meet together and do your "Yoga" session at Liberty, In Hand and Mounted. It doesn't matter whether you ride Western or English. It's all good.

I will be adding new exercises and patterns to the FDHorsemanship Virtual Clinic so be sure to check it out! In the mean time, Enjoy this video which to me, shows all facets of what I look for in my program with my horses. Joy, Fun, Connection, Technical play, fitness and suppleness play, and horse Yoga and Physical Therapy!