Well, being aware when there is a shishm in the lines of communication is certainly a great skill to have. It sounds that you are maintaining a pretty solid focus on your horse, thus you can tell when he is with you and when he is not. This is kind of rare in a lot of riders. They just assume that since THEY want to slow down/speed up, that the horse is thinking with them. But the hrose is thinking about what the other horses are doing back at the barn, or what the rustling in the bushes is all about.
It really is absolute key to riding to be aware of "where your horse's mind is". Horses are programmed to keep being outwardly focussed and scan their environment for danger every 30 secs or so. We have to be aware of that and alway be aware of when our horse has left us mentally. But neither do we want to yank their attention back, unless the horse has yanked his attention far away and endangers us. If the though is still light, it may not take much at all to bring them back. It can be like a silk thread; I light hand brings it back, pull too hard and it will break.
I thought about this this morning when I tried like the dickens to get Zulu to cross the muddy creek and come to me for 'catching", instead of me having to cross it and go to him. The most of the herd came over to see if I had carrots, but Zulu stood watching. I tried to keep him watching me, and I watched his face to see the "click" when he makes the decision to move. I tried moving his rear feet a bit, because sometiems just moving a horse's feet will tip him over the balance into a decision. But, push too hard and he will decide to leave me for the open 40 acres.
So, like I said, I "broke" out his rear feet, but he did not come, and in fact, chose to start walking away. So, I crossed the creek and walked partly behind, partly in his left eye and gently scuffled the rope against my thigh to get his attention. When he looked out of curiousity, I paused and held out my hand (with small carrot, which he can barely see). He goes to eat the grass, and I gently scuffle the rope (hey! I am still here!) he looks back, pauses and then decides "well, she's not going to leave me alone so I might as well go see what she wants". He walks right up. Gets carrot and some rubs. No rushing. Just some petting and time together then put the halter on.
Walking him the long road back to the barn, if he starts to turn back to "hollar" at the herd, I look for him to leave me mentally, and I give the rope the tiniest little wiggle, . . He comes back to me. The sooner I catch the thought that is leaving, the lighter that thought is and the easier it is to invite it back to me.
Look to your horse, where is his thought? How heavy is it?
I woke up this morning thinking of about this wonderful slice of advice. You're quite the writer your own self! I realize now there's a certain quiet I haven't achieved. I'm so ****ed excited when I get up there to ride. For me, this is a great adventure. And now that I think about it, I go in to his stall probably too exuberant and while he always greets me in a way that seems happy: he nods his great head and then I'll hug him hello and rub his head and flank. Still, I must consider he's in a cow collar so he's not going anywhere.
My routine is I'll start talking nonsense, saying hello while I rub his neck and sides. Then I groom and talk and tell him he's great and we're going to have a good ride. Maybe it's time to stop being so happy and excited and be slower and steady with him.
They are very different, horses. I thought of them as I would dogs but I think in fact, they may be opposites. Dogs are predatory. So you can baby them, talk high pitched and keep them happy and excited. But horses, maybe not. Maybe it's time for deeper quiet.
Tiny I thank you for this particular bit of information about how they continuously scan for danger. I knew they are prey but it never occurred to me that they are proactively on the alert all the time. This is an exceptional horse, btw. He's got a strong personality but he's compliant, knowledgeable and **** near as perfect as he thinks he is.
I'm not in awe of him but I am very grateful for his good nature and his exceptional abilities. I know he'll provide what I ask for when I learn how to. Now I'll have to start asking quieter and more definitively. I think I understand a little more and for this I am very grateful. Thank you so much.