The Art of Natural Dressage

The Relationship
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Author:  Romy [ Fri Mar 28, 2008 11:59 am ]
Post subject:  The Relationship

An entry in Helen´s diary made me curious about your opinions on the relationship with the horse. Here and in other places it is often talked about having or achieving a relationship, or about working on the relationship.

How do you see the relationship? Is it something that you can have or not have? A goal to reach? A result? A byproduct? Or no fixed entity at all?

I know that there is no single or easy answer, but I am interested in your opinions.

Author:  Bianca [ Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:11 pm ]
Post subject: 

Well there is always a relationship but how do you both want it to be? I like my horses to be happy and try to have a good relationship with them. In this I find most important that they trust me and that they know they can depend on me for their daily needs and in times of trouble. And that they like to be around me. Atreyu I have a deep connection with on top of a good relationship. To her it matters if I'm around or somebody else. She trusts me with her life and depends on my judgment, also in times of fear. She can do without me at times but there was a time she depended on me (and vise versa) too much. She would limp when I was on vacation and get angry when she would not see me a day. I would get sick worrying about her and couldn't leave her side. This was not healthy! I want my horses to have the trust and strength in themselves to stand on their own 4 feet.
Now our relationship is healthy, we still have a deep connection but we don't make each other sick with worries anymore.

With Evita I have a good relationship but Evita loves every human being. She is self confident in her ways and has the feeling she does not need me at all. She likes to play with me and likes to be around me. I don't know if she is not so open or if her life just is simple so there is no deeper ground so search for. In playing I notice we know each other very well but for her it wouldn't matter if another loving person would take care of her. But she is very sensitive and is really upset when I am angry or something, she does everything to please me and I find it a big responsibility to let her know she is the greatest, she need the applause.

Imperia is very sensitive and does not mind if she is doing the right thing towards me. But she needs attention! She does not like it to be left out and likes it when she is praised but does not mind if I say she is naughty :twisted: She just want to have attention. We have a good relationship and a connection which gets deeper. I think she depends on me a bit when she comes in new circumstances, also because in a way she is still a child. But she is the bravest horse I've ever seen.

With Unico it's a double situation. He likes to be with me and to be cuddled by me and finds me very important (he will scream everytime he sees me :D) but I also have to teach him things he finds very scary. Unico acts tough but is not so brave by heart, so he is very scared with every new thing he learns although I take things very slow and thoughtful. So one one side he trusts me and on the other hand not.

So every relationship with every horse is different. I found that some people confuse dependency with a deep connection. They like their horses to be dependent because it makes them feel needed. I know this feels good as a person but to me I like my horses love each other and themselves more than me because I'm not always there. I like my horses to be independent and our relationship based on a common positive feeling to be together. Mostly with horses with 'a past' this connection also has to be like a steady rock for them but in a way there has to be a person who can stand their ground next to every horse. If they feel this, the connection is there, on top of the relationship. Happy together when independent and safe when dependant.

Author:  Anneli [ Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:55 pm ]
Post subject: 

I think that relationship is something that you and your horse can have if you both are willing to achieve it. At first, initiative is on human side, but the horse, quickly or slowly, accepts it and if you have proven yourself, your true feelings and your love to your horse, he gives you his heart. The most difficult part is proving to your horse that your feelings towards him are true and deep. I have lived AND lifestyle over 2 months now and I am at the beginning of proving my feelings to my horses. Yet, day by day I can feel how they slowly (Proloog more slowly than Ann Pepper) are starting to open their heart to me. During these two months, there have been days when I have almost cried (I rarely cry), because these opening moments are so beautiful. Am I imagining that? But why does my horses come to me when they are in liberty? Why they do not run away like "normal horses"? Why they stay with me even if I ask them to do something although they are not attached to me in any way (so called normal horse usually runs away even if he has saddle and bridles on if he has chance)? Why do I discover day by day that more liberty I give to my horses, the less they need, but yet that they are so thankful that I trust them so much that I give them more and more liberty?
Me and my horses, we are not even close to the relationship Helen and Espirit have, but yet I feel first time in my life that I am not burden to my horses (oh, that annoying human came again and wanted to ride), I am more like a friend, who is welcome and sometimes even interesting. :lol: I do not know exactly, how the exercises and games affect relationship between me and my horses, because we haven't done them much (yet :D). But what I know is that I have been just spending time with my horses and taking all that is given to me, and our relationship has grown much deeper.
Has the relationship some final goal? I don't think so. It changes day by day, almost like weather. We have good days and bad days, good years and bad years, don't we? Is it some distinct goal to be achieved? I don't think so either. I think that it comes with time and by opening our heart to our horses. They are actually eager to open theirs, but they are too afraid - think how long have humans abused and not understood them.
So this was my humble opinion. Sorry for bad English, but all my thoughts came deep from my heart, so I had to but them down here as good as I could.


Author:  Donald Redux [ Sat Mar 29, 2008 11:40 pm ]
Post subject: 

Proloog wrote:


Sorry for bad English, but all my thoughts came deep from my heart, so I had to but them down here as good as I could.


Your English is just fine, Anneli, as is your heart.

Donald Redux - now



If you are curious, you can see my photo and video album at -
guest password is 'haumea'

Author:  Kirsti [ Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:03 am ]
Post subject: 

I think some kind of relationship will always be there.. But it is only when the owner (or human in charge) also gives the horse the possibility to speak out the can grow a deep relationship.

Yes, I think you can work on it - but I also think you can work "too" much on it. When this is your only focus (as it has been for me for a while) you might end up deleating yourself a bit to let the horse grow. With the result that none of you grows. I think I did that with Vilja. I see our relationship as MUCh stronger these last days after I started speak up clearer also.

But I do think it is a good thing to work on it and focus some of it. But that is also because I am "relationship-person" of nature I think. I LOVE strong bondings. And very much between human and animals (probably one of the reasons i got so "cought up" in it too). I want to be special for my horses. And they to be special for me.

But I also think a good relationship can take different forms for different horses and people.

(It is hard to say something in general of this I think)

Author:  AnnieB [ Sun Mar 30, 2008 11:20 pm ]
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This is a very interesting question, and one that will vary as much as we and our individual horses vary.
For many years I have loved creating relationships with animals, and have had some wonderful experiences doing so, especialy with abused or neglected animals. I raised a group of calves once for a man, I had them from just a few days old, of course they would be better with their momas, but,farming as it is.......
These little guys became very attached to me, followed me everywhere, loved body massages, loved our playgames. When in the barn I would run up and down with them throwing straw in the air, they would go crazy, kicking heals. out on walks we all lay down together.
I also had two goats, one I took on from a woman who had shut in a shed and hardly fed it, it was skin and bone, and terrified of humans. With time and plenty of food treats she allowed me to touch her, with more time she learn't the delights of a back massage. I would walk them up the lanes to browse hedgrows, I would take a book up the hill and sit and read and they would lay with me cudding, these are all heavenly moments of animal/human interaction at there best.
So when I got my horses I thought, well, this will be easy, but, I also had in my head that I wanted to ride, and so this relationship would be totaly different to my other animal relationships, I was asking for something, with the other animals we just enjoyed eachothers company, I never took one away from their other mates. So from the begining I could see that this was going to take more understanding, even more trust, and a realiseation that even though most prey animals distrust humans, nothing prepared me for just how ingrained it was in horses to distrust humans more than all the other animals I had worked with. And here was me expecting to ride him!!!
Our relationships has had it's ups and downs, I have three horses now and I have had all of them from foals, I was excellent at getting their trust as foals, playing with them, walking them, teaching them on walks all the good things to eat from the hedgerow, massaging them all over till they nearly fell over! But, all this crashes when I decide to ride, I have little understanding of ridden work, I thought that you just gained the trust of the animal and then just rode, but being here and NHE has helped me realise this is not so. I now realise that ridding can damage a horse, so now I'm thinking why do it at all, we are all so conditioned into thinking that all horses are for riding, but, when I introduced the ridden work, my relatioship started suffering, even though I never used bits, or nailed on shoes, never made them do countless rings in a menage.
I watch Romy and others here riding and they look so relaxed and so do their horses, and I sometimes think that I am just not far enough down the road with horses to do this. I do get deppressed, fed up, totaly loose direction and focus.
I have worked with animals for years, but nothing prepared me for horses.
These are very complex animals because of the intensly close relationship we have with them, they are magical and spiritual and have so much to teach us if we are willing to listen, if we don't then our relatioship will suffer, and they will let us know that, if we don't respect them from the heart, they will let us know. The answer as always with all relationships wether animal or human is respect, and bucketfuls of love.

Author:  Brenda [ Mon Mar 31, 2008 11:16 pm ]
Post subject: 

Good question. And 'relationship' means something different to us all, often because of the relationships we have had!

The way I see it is that in any relationship there must be communication. And for me, as cold as it might sound in the face of other more heartfelt posts, I look at things scientifically. I do love my animals and I will never know if they 'love' me, but I do not base my training on whether they love me or should love me, etc. cuz I just don't know that!!

Instead I observe, I watch my animals behavior, how do they respond to X??? do they seek out Y??? why are they avoiding Z???? And ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS assessing their emotional state. Are they afraid? Why? Are they stressed? Why? What can I do to make things better, how can I change their emotions. That's my job as their caretaker and trainer and companion, to watch their backs, and keep them safe.

In all my interactions with my animals, I am always thinking of how to use positive reinforcement, always looking for what they want at any given moment, and trying to use that to 'make a deal' with them <G>. And if I do use an aversive/pressure to decrease/increase a behavior, I am very aware of the cost and think long and hard as to whether it is worth that cost.

So I work a lot on shaping self control stuff for everyday things, back gets the gate to open, whoa from an excited state gets a jackpot!, waiting gets hay put in the feeder, standing stil makes me keep brushing/scratching, giving me attention in the face of a distraction gets treats, too pushy or impatient makes me and the treats/grain/hay go away, etc.

And that to me is a give/take thing between us, but that still means I can sort of 'run the show'. I still dole out the resources, I have the opposable thumb that can open the gates, I still say when it's your turn, I can still direct the training session as I see fit with their needs in mind, etc.

And IMO the most important thing for my animals is that I am consistent in the rules and boundaries and interactions. They are like children, dependent upon us for their care and teaching, and I think feel calm and secure when things (me!) are predictable.

So giving them what they want when they want it is IMO not healthy, but giving them what they want if they give me what I want can make life together FUN!!! In this way my animals can express themselves and we can push the limits, without me getting trampled...well in theory anyway <G>


Author:  HelenMai [ Tue Apr 01, 2008 9:55 am ]
Post subject: 

@ Anneli, thanks :D This is very beautiful, what you writed.

@ Kirsti. I am totally agree with you, I am also relationship-person and I love strong bondings.

Day by day Esprit amazes me. He never stops amaze me. He voluntary chooses me instead of other horses being at liberty or paddock. He stands with me and when I say go run with other horses, then he goes. He voluntary chooses me to play with.

I think these are results, what I have tryd (worked hard) about 1 year to create good relationship.

In my diary I wrote post, what is ideal relationship between human and horse? From my experience and knowledge I think this is trustful and equal relationship between human and horse, where are take into account both sides interests.

In my opinion ideal relationship 100% consists:
50% being together at nature (not training);
50% training, included games for horse.

The first part – being together at nature is more important than other part- training. For example walking, running, playing together, swimming, sleeping, eating the grass together etc, human have to use its fantasy, what kind of interesting and fun things can do together at nature.

All people think that training the horse is the most important and nothing more. I see that every day. And when horse is walking at paddock every day with other horses, then that is all also. People think that they cant do more together with horses. But actually the answer is: people can do everything together with horses. Despite that horse is walking every day at paddock with other horses, the horse wants also to be with you, walk-run-play with you together at nature.

Do you know what is the result of when you do things that horse loves? You and horse go together to nature (paddock, field, forest etc), there you play, run, walk together, eating the grass etc. Horse is very satisfied and thankful to you, because horse loves being at nature and horse loves you. All is there. Horse wants you to give also positive emotions. Horse starts to entertain and please you. Because you are doing things that horse loves, horse starts voluntary do things that you love - running at collection, haute ecole exercises and jumps etc. And this is the most beautiful, because horse is training itself voluntary, the movements are free and natural, there is no pressure.

What is the conclusion here? Both sides (human and horse) interests are take into account, both sides are satisfied and happy. This is equality and true partnership. This is ideal relationship.

Author:  admin [ Tue Apr 01, 2008 11:14 am ]
Post subject: 

I wonder if the 50/50 rule is for every horse and every human. I think that the 50/50 rule is perfect for the relationship with Esprit, but not necessarily for all the other horses too. Some will want much more focused training, while others want to go out much more. I already see big differences between Blacky and Sjors in what they need from a training session, so I really think that that depends on the horse.

To Romy's tough questions: 8)
Seeing the relationship as a goal tends to make me feel a bit itchy. :oops: Back in the NHE forum in the end it seemed to me that the forummembers had made the relationship the goal in itself that excluded everything else, and with as definition of relationship 'asking nothing from your horse, always following his lead'. That's where I failed, because Blacky and Sjors hate being asked nothing. :roll: I recognized more in what Alexander Nevzorov told in his dvd's: that his own goal was to strenghten the horse mentally and physically through collection in order to make him more proud of himself. That is my goal.

For me, the relationship is something that is always there when a horse and a human start to interact: it can be positive, negative, happy or abusive on either side, but it is always there. However, you can be more or less aware of the fact that it's there, and which kind of relationship it is. Suppose that I discover that my relationship is too much that I'm giving orders and the ponies are just following them, then I can change the things I do in order to bring more balance in the relationship that we have. And if the relationship between you and your horse isn't that strong yet, then there will be things that you and your horse don't trust to do yet. Perhaps you will stick more to traditional cues or methods untill you feel really safe to experiment more, and perhaps your horse will also for now just give 'safe' lower energy reactions because he first needs to find out if he's going to be punished if he experiments more.

If the relationship is a goal, then it feels to me (and I can have it wrong!) like you see is as something solid, like as if there will be a point in the future where your horse will do everything for you. But he will always have his own ideas, thoughts which might not coincide with what you think, especially if you give him the liberty to think on his own. Therefore, for me, relationship is not my goal, but instead it's always my guideline, because it's so shifty and subtle. It determines what we'll do today. If Sjors seems a bit introvert, then we'll play more so that he realises that he can always express himself. And if he gets a bit pushy, then I'll introduce more focused work.

So I see the relaltionship more as a constant guideline: what feels good, what not? What would improve our relationship at this moment and what not? Is someone leading the other, or are we in sync? Are we both comfortable with that or should we shift that line a micrometer? All those things are such microscopic changes that I can only see when we're really interacting together, when we're doing things with each other. I can't see all those tiny nuances when I'm just sitting in the paddock doing nothing. Others probably can, but I'm afraid that I'm just too practical-minded to be able to do it that way.

For me the relationship really is something deeply emotional, but it expresses itself in actively taking care of the other, and showing (maybe even proving?) the other through everything that you do that you really take care of him.

Author:  Romy [ Wed Apr 09, 2008 11:55 am ]
Post subject: 

Finally I got time to read everything here. Very interesting contributions!! :D

As Miriam said, I also have some problems with seeing the relationship as a goal. I also don´t want it to sound like something fixed. For me the relationship is more a byproduct of our activities and when the activities and ways of interacting with each other are good, then the relationship will be healthy for both of us too.

I don´t do something with my horses in order to get a certain relationship. I do what I think will help to increase my horses´ happiness, strength and bodily + mental fitness. The difference to working on what makes us bond together is subtle, but profound in my opinion. This is because in the first case I feel that I have to work on the situation and in the second case I have to work on my person. And this bears the danger of losing authenticity. I don´t want to become the perfect person for my horses, but I want to be the person who I am and let them be the horses that they are. What I do want is learning to use what I am and what they are to make us all enjoy our interaction.

This difference becomes more obvious for me when applied to people: if I am in love with someone (children, friends, family, lovers or whatever...), would I try to make him love me, make him trust me, make him want to be with me? Or would I rather influence our interaction in a way that we both enjoy it? And want more because of that. And love each other because of that. So I don´t try to directly work on feelings, but let the feelings emerge from what we do. Even if this results in the same activities, for me there is a difference in MY feeling towards the situation. If I tried to make myself lovable and create love in the other person, I would be constantly worried and stressed. Was this gesture right? Did it increase my loveliness?

Maybe others can get along with this, but I can not. This is also the feeling I got in NHE. The constant worry of some forum members if they were right and lovable enough. Not the best precondition for being a good and strong friend that the horse can rely on in my opinion...

Author:  Glen Grobler [ Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:37 pm ]
Post subject: 

I've been reading this topic and thinking very hard :lol:

I don't think it is possible to "make" a relationship. For me, a relationship is what develops when two or more personalities learn to accomodate each other while engaged in mutual activities. Some activities and attitudes will foster negative relationships, while others will result in positive relationships.

A positive relationship involves a lot of aspects like affection, respect, trust, safety, admiration, companionship, acknowledgement, education, healing, sharing, laughter, fun, games, interest, a willingness to give and take, etc. I think every aspect of both personalities gets involved in creating a relationship. The more you become attuned to each other, the deeper and more reliable the relationship becomes. Eventually it becomes love.

A negative relationship involves coercion, force, pressure, violence, threat, fear, defence, selfishness, possessiveness, entitlement, greed, envy, control, etc.

I try to assess the style of my relationships by what kind of outcome I am getting. Is the other "person/s" growing and moving forward, or shrinking?

The relationship develops because of or in spite of the "goal" which is what prompted those personalities to attempt the interaction in the first place.

Author:  Barbara [ Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:56 pm ]
Post subject: 

I just read most things, I've opened this tread a lot of times, but never got trough reading them all. I think it's a very difficult question.

I love my horse deeply and I'm not trough thinking about it at all, I don't know what I want, or how I want everything to be.

Let me try to explain. Beau is great, but he too is a very self confident, certain horse. And because he was born where he lives now, knows my and the stable owner very good, he is a bit spoiled. I notice the difference a lot looking at Brutus. Beau tends to test things out and because he is not afraid he goes much further then Brutus, he will just climb over a wheelbarrow to get out of the stall, because he's not afraid and well, it's possible. Brutus will never do that. There are a million things like that. So when we do things together he will start of 'normal' then push it a bit further and then just go way over the line of what I can 'allow' him to do. he likes to go up to cars and sniffle them... which is great... and then before you know it he'll put his foot on it... He does it with saddling, well, with everything.

Then I try to set some boundaries and when I do this, he just gets really bored. and gets a lot less interested in doing things with me.

And then sometimes I get too pushy... But that is because, and I know I should not do this :) I think, ok, I listen to you a lot and give you much freedom and then you sometimes do things I really do not want ( like opening the stall door and walking trough the stable and not going in again, or other way around, escaping from the pasture to walk around in the stalls and not wanting to go out. Then I think, ok, you sometimes get your way so I get mine.
And then I want to go for a ride and he does not hate me for it, he just stands there dead-bored. Or he wants to do 20 jambettes but not walk next to me and when I take hold of the cordeo, or halter, and do not pull it, he followes with this bored look.

Then I do not know what our relationship is about, I want the two of us to be ourselves and respect one another, and therefor sometimes do things we wouldn't do. Because for me, letting Beau say no every time results mostly in doing everything he wants and nothing I want. Now with the testing of Josephas saddles, I just pick him out of the pasture sometimes and saddle, he comes to me walks in, lets me saddle him and ride, but then he decides thats enough and will not play much anymore. He's like a teenager saying ok I'll go with you to my grandparents but I will feel bad all week.

This is again too much I've written. Because I do not know if our relationship will develop in a good way this way.... But this is at the moment how we do it. Sometimes my idea sometimes his, and a lot of times not doing anything until we both want to.

Just one short thing... I used to spend a lot of time with Brutus and he is not so sure, and wants to do EVERYTHING for you to be happy, he'll be the perfect horse, and with him everything was great, he will trust your ideas, he comes from a harsh trainer and is just happy to say what he does not like but he'll find a lot of things fine... So it will depend on the horse ... and that's even more difficult!

Author:  Amiro [ Wed Apr 09, 2008 6:28 pm ]
Post subject: 

Lately I read somewhere:

'Happiness is not the goal, it is the way'
Loved it, wrote it on the board in our kitchen at home where we often put things to think about.

Now I think of it I think with relationship it is the same. I saw the relationship as a goal some time ago, but then I realized, making sure that the relationship is good is the way.

Besides, when I am with Amiro I feel the same like Miriam said, I focus on strengthening him emotionally and physically and the relationship will grow while we do this.

Nothing more to add to the wonderful replies here. Especially to Glen, I completely agree with and really like your post :D

Author:  Glen Grobler [ Wed Apr 09, 2008 8:00 pm ]
Post subject: 

:oops: Thank you.

Author:  Tlove [ Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:27 am ]
Post subject: 

A very interesting subject.

My horse suprises my every day. One day she can be so calm and not scared of anything and another day she can be scared at her home place of something she know. She doesn't turn and run, but makes this breathin sound trough her nose.

When we were on vacation in the Netherlands she was perfect. She was full of confidence, very calm in her stable and great to ride. Even though she was so far away form home.

Now she is at a stable to be insiminated and when I see her now, she has a lot more stress. She isn't really scared but she isn't confident as well. Now she wants to trust and she tries to be brave and wants to listen to me but I can see she is absolutely not sure. I have a hard time calming her down and I trie to give her a good experience the best way I can. But I must say that lately I am very nervous as well. Even just typing this I almost go crazy. I mean it is just exciting have a foal and on the other I am so scared if anything goes wrong.
I think it is my fault that she is like that.

I have not such a good idea of how deep our relationship is. I try to find out, but everyday is so different with her. I think she trust me because she really wants to listen to me and please me even if she thinks it is scary. And I admire that in her but she still will be very causious then.

One day she can be so focused on me and everything feels so great but another day she feels on top of the world if she just can tease me. She knows what is going to happen but she makes it as hard as possible for me.

I really can't figure out very good how our relationship is. I want to say good or okay. But I don't know. It is something we work on everyday but I must say honestly that ever since we started AND whe have more good days then bad days. And this is a whole step for us. Regarding our past when I treated her bad without knowing so many things.
I have faith that, even if it isn't wonderful or super like other people here, we will get there on or own rithim and time. And I should respect that.

When I read here it makes me astonished of what people can achieve. I know that I am way below some peoples level of skills here but back at our holiday in the netherlands people where astonished of what we could do. And that maked me feel really good.
It is something we work on everyday, and I really don't mind :)

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