Have you ever observed a child lead a large horse and wondered ‘how is that 40 lb child able to lead that 1200 lb horse so successfully?’ What secret does that child possess to be able to do this?
The secret is confidence.
Size doesn’t really matter to a horse. What does matter is calmness, intention, body language, and believing in yourself. These traits can be brought into a person’s life and impact them in profound ways.
I was working with children during a summer camp, teaching them about horsemanship. One little boy “Timmy” who was physically smaller than his peers spent a lot of his time away from the group, he was quiet, sometimes teased, but mostly ignored by the rest of the group. During a break, while the group was sitting at a picnic table, Timmy was sitting on the grass by himself. He followed me into the barn….
I asked him if he’d ever led a horse and he shared he hadn’t. I introduced him to Presto a gentle but large Appaloosa (probably over 16 hands). Timmy probably weighed 40 lbs.
I had Timmy take a few deep breaths and stroke Presto’s neck. Presto dropped his head so Timmy could touch his large forehead. I demonstrated how to lead Presto and let Timmy hold the end of the rope.
I explained to Timmy that Presto is a prey animal and even though he is big and we are much smaller, we need to be a leader. To show Timmy what I meant, I demonstrated my body language with drooped shoulders and a slumped back while looking down and tried to get Presto to follow me. Presto wouldn’t budge. I then put my shoulders back, my chest out, and I took a deep breath and imagined leading Presto and that it went well. I walked Presto with ease and I kept my eyes up.
Timmy took his turn with his shoulders back, and a deep breath, imagining a positive outcome. I told him to walk like a leader and keep his eyes up. I reminded him he was in charge of a 1200 lb animal and I told Timmy that I believed he could do it.
Timmy then led Presto with great success; it was my privilege to observe this.
After the break was over, the kids came back from the picnic table. I told the group that today they were going to learn how to lead a horse. I told them in order to do this, we needed a leader to demonstrate. At that moment Timmy appeared and walked Presto by the group. The group was silent when Timmy marched Presto by in front of them. I described to the group that the reason Presto was walking with Timmy was because Timmy is the leader and he has Presto’s respect. I told them Timmy’s body language was communicating to Presto that Timmy is in charge and he’s got this. I noticed something different about Timmy’s face when he walked by, and pondered what was different about him? I realized Timmy was smiling. It was the first time I had seen him smile.
Eventually, all the kids learned how to lead Presto but no one did it quite like Timmy.
If you or someone you love needs help with confidence, I offer workshops with horses to help teach confidence and the results are always profound.
Sue Dixon, owner of Partnering Horses with Humans, is a Certified Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator through Horse Spirit Connections and Cartier Farms (Dreamwinds), and a Registered Coach through Equestrian Canada. Sue and her beloved horse Egalie were the 2014 champions of the beginner division of the North East Trillium Hunter Jumper Association. Sue has a degree in Sociology from the University of Waterloo.
Sue has 33 years of experience working at a local corporation with leadership in quality and health and safety. Sue’s role with Partnering Horses with Humans is that of facilitator; helping clients find their own wisdom by tapping into the horse’s wisdom. Sue operates her business out of two locations and offers services and workshops to individuals, couples, families and workplace.