Last month I hosted a clinic at my farm – it was a clinic teaching equine assisted psychotherapy. I didn’t know what to expect, I was just hosting the event, but I looked forward to learning a few things that I thought might help me with my riding students.
By the end of the weekend, I had so many new insights into my interactions with others – people and horses, and discovered principles that shifted how I thought about training.
The instructors of this clinic were Tim Jobe and Gabby Rivette of Natural Lifemanship, a model of equine assisted psychotherapy that uses the relationship between a client and a horse as a foundation for the therapy they provide.
What can a model of therapy that uses horses and develops relationship skills teach us about training? Well, as I discovered at the Natural Lifemanship Clinic, training can build that great relationship. Here’s why this is so important:
Relationships shape our world. There is our relationship with ourself, our family, friends, teachers, and co-workers. There are relationships with our pets and our horses. Every creature with a developed limbic system of the brain values relationship. They connect us, inspire us to do good, and help us feel happy and safe.
A good relationship makes us want to do right by the other person, the happiness of the other person becomes our reinforcement and the principles of good relationships help guide us through normal pressures.
A healthy relationship with our horse can be similar to our relationships with other people. We communicate requests, they choose how to respond, and we react to that response. The outcome of this sequence will end up strengthening or weakening our relationship.
With this understanding, training is no different than relationship building. Both sides have needs, both sides have requests, and we both have to make sure our requests are reasonable and that we set boundaries wherever we are uncomfortable.
Watch the interview below to hear Tim and Gabby share the principles of a good relationship and why it matters for our work with our horses. (Plus they have a unique way of talking about “control” – watch the video to learn more. )