I sat in the car waiting as I often do when Ravishin' Robbie ran in the store to grab a few groceries. It's not so much I don't enjoy shopping, but walking in stores is a bother to my legs. And it offers a great time to people watch. The other day I was "people watchin'" when I noticed a child, of I suppose 7 or so, trying oh so hard to get her mother's understanding of a matter of what must have been great importance by the demonstration of arm flailing and hurried loud outbursts. Of course I couldn't understand the words, but the volume and tone sent a clear, "Are You Listening?" I chuckled because I knew the answer was a resounding, NO! For the mother was every bit as determined to make her point, at the same time. I never got the impression they were angry, quite the opposite, they seemed happy and excited, but were not able to communicate what was so exciting.
This made me think of a seminar I'd attended for sales training years ago. "Learning effective ways to listen." Never forgot it. But I must admit I'm not that great a listener, either. Unless I use this little trick. And you bet, I'm gonna share how I modified it for listing to your horse.
The trick isn't to watch the other person's lips or focus on their eyes or get in sync with their breathing, or any of the standard "rules for good listening." In fact you can do this with your eyes closed. Well with people you can. With horses you pretty much gotta look at them.
But with people it is really simple … Here it is … "Listen to every word as if you must jump in and finish the sentence." … That's it ... No gimmicks, no tricks. Just pretend at any moment you'll need to pick it up and finish the sentence. We even did role playing in the seminar, which I remember was a hoot!
So how do you finish the sentence your horse is saying? Well you listen closely; it will enrich your connection ... A brief side note here … When I'm doing my "Therapy For Therapy Horses" exercises, within a few moments of starting I'll get signals from the horse where they want my hands to go next. It is one reason why I'd love for anyone who has or works with horses to learn at least the basics of these. These exercises will teach folks to "listen to their horse" in a most comprehensive way.
But I'd like to share the other way you can finish your horse's sentence. Think about when you're leading her, and she stops. I'd like to suggest, you stop. Don't just think what you want, where you are going or want to go, but pause a second or three and look where your horse is looking. Sometimes it's obvious, she's worried about something she sees, ears and eyes focused right on it. That's an easy one and you should look at it too and wait a few seconds before asking her to move on. Finish the sentence together.
The real opportunity to finish your horse's sentence will come when she stops as you're leading her, you turn to look at her … and she isn't really looking at anything. She's just standing with soft eyes, relaxed ears and no concern on her face. This is your chance to hear her, and finish her sentence. If you stay soft, open your heart, mind and intuitiveness you'll pick up on it. It'll be a moment of deep connection. Think then of the end of her sentence ... Will she walk on to follow you, or relax another moment? Think a bit, wait for it, and then you'll see, your thoughts were in tune. You heard her – because you were listening … The opposite is also true … If when she stops you tug on the lead to move her on with no more than a brief glance her way shouting in your mind, "Come On!" … You will have missed what she was trying to tell you when she said, "I'm really loving this walk together."
I'm a big fan of ground work with a horse and doing slow easy things together will give you many opportunities to finish your horse's sentences. Remember to pause, join her thoughts and "predict" what she wants to do next, by finishing her sentence. While trail riding is another great chance to "learn to listen well," if she stops along the trail, pause, look and listen to her. The key to listening well is finishing the sentence in the way the "talker" would finish it. You know then, you are in tune.