Awakening to our horse's potential intelligence

Erin Brinkman

Utilizing the horses potential intelligence for me has been a 40 year journey. In this time
there have been many ups and downs. But mostly I would say my younger years were
spent in a state of ignorance. Ignorant because I would say most of the time I did it
mostly wrong! I wanted one thing, but my body and my energy, especially my physical/
emotional energy were incongruent.

Okay so you were asking what do you mean incongruent? I will try in the following
examples explain further my understanding at this point.

Growing up in the world of horses, I have found many different kinds of instructors.
Some abusive, some ignorant, some extremely wise, some profoundly skillful etc. I am
grateful to everyone of them. For in this time I have learned what to do, and what not to
do. Ultimately discovering how simple riding should be....

Firstly, horses are generally having a higher "Emotional IQ" than most people. In fact
their empathy and psychic ability far surpass our own. Think about it in these terms,
when you see a group of horses pleasantly grazing together in a field and something
unexpected happens, like a large branch falling from a tree. This group will take off
together, never bumping into one another and even turning in an arc at a gallop
smoothly and with grace. However if one of the horses is not in balance and perhaps is
drifting out of balance through it's right shoulder, the horse to it's right will probably
reach over and bite him on the shoulder. This is a "primal reaction", if there were a
predator and one of the horses was perceived as being "out of balance" it would attract
more predators. So basically the conversation going on between these two horses is
something like, "hey buddy get it together! You are going to attract attention to our
herd!" More importantly, how is it that this group is able to move together, at a highspeed,
without bumping into one another? They can "instinctively, psychically, visualize
and feel each other at the same time". So now you are asking why does this correlate
with a higher emotional IQ for horses? They unlike us have not learned to computerize
their emotions. We on the other hand do this on a daily basis. Wearing masks to to hide
our emotional feelings while putting on a happy face for those around us. Of course this
doesn't happen all the time. But unfortunately our intelligence we can't becomes our
hindrance. Where is horses live in the moment and always are how they are. In other
words if they are unhappy they show it if they're happy they show it if they're
uncomfortable with something they show it if they're afraid they show it, etc. whereas we
could have a fight with a friend and then need to ride a horse. We may still feel
frustrated or angry because of this interaction, our horses generally will react to us
negatively at this point. If we remain on conscious about our feelings and interact with
the horse like what is wrong with the horse? This in my mind decreases our emotional
IQ significantly.

In late 2005, I was luckily introduced to the ways of "Natural Horsemanship", by my dear
friends Linda and Pat Parelli. How we met. Funnily enough my mom, Jean Brinkman,
and I were standing in the stable at Valhalla farm, when we saw a huge Parelli bus pull
into our driveway. We looked at each other and said "do you think that's actually Linda
and Pat Parelli"? And we said "no it can't be"! However it was! This chance encounter
remains a life-changing event in my evolution with horses. Prior to this time I had
trained over 10 horses to FEI. However Pat would inform me that this was "Like the
College education for a horse". And what was missing for my horses were all those
"Pre-College years." So while my FEI success should've been completely fulfilling, I was
left feeling empty and questioning my profession. I was questioning it because so many
of my training horses were extremely fearful, spooking at random things which without
the proper comprehensive ground work, meant more leg, more whip, or more spur to
get them by different objects they found extremely scary. This emotional tension in the
horse also creates so much mental and physical tension, that the horse can no longer
feel the aids of the rider. I have experienced horses so frightened by their environment
that their entire diaphragm becomes stuck and it becomes impossible to move their rib
cage from side to side. Much less breathe! And of course since the horse is so
completely frightened, it caused me a great deal of anxiety! One of the horses would
bolt when he would see anything new or different in his environment. This does not
create a secure cohesive relationship. Through Linda and Pat I found the foundation my
heart and soul had been longing for... completing this important area, filling it up with
tools, exercises, wisdom and gratefully replacing my ignorance.

Through simple natural horsemanship tools of games and play I could create a trusting
loving partner, without any scare tactics involved. In this work from the ground, we teach
the horse how to intelligently come up with possible answers to our questions. Not just
reacting with their natural flight or fight tendencies. When we remove the halter for the
liberty work the horse no longer has to be the submissive partner. He can either choose
to stay with us and play with us or leave. This gives us the feedback we need to know if
the work is valid and if the trust and comradeship has truly been established. If our
training has been too stringent, the horse will run away from us. If the training has been
done without engaging the horses enthusiasm and intelligence they may become
sluggish and bored. If there is a lack of respect from the horse, then there will be no
boundaries, without boundaries we put ourselves in a position to possibly be hurt by our
horse. But once the trust, rapport and respect have been established, we can teach the
horse to intelligently decipher are different body motions and how those would apply to
their body. This is how they instinctively interact with one another. Now we can create
this play drive with our work with them. If we turn left through our shoulders, they will
turn left with their shoulders. If we stop, they stop, if we back, they back ~All with
enthusiasm! No longer will you need to train with the old paradigm of dominant ridersubmissive
horse. With this foundation in place, never did I ride again in a state of fear
or anxiety myself. Here in lies the potential to tap into this intelligence while riding in

Awareness of this mentality allows us to become more like them when interacting with
them. When creating this intelligent riding the possible roadblocks will be stiffness,
physical blocks, pain, etc. Essentially we all seek rhythm, love, harmony, balance,
enthusiasm, and connection. But first all of these possible blocks must be addressed,
not only in the horse but also in ourselves. We also must be emotionally calm, free, and
balanced and more importantly in the present moment. Plus we must spend countless
hours in the saddle perfecting our position.  All of these things are important for our
intelligent communication with the horse. Mostly we seek oneness with our horse,
where all sense of time is forgotten, completely immersed in the present moment. How
can we achieve this goal if our mind, physical body or emotional body is unstable, or
especially if trust is not well-founded? All of these factors are possible blocks in our
communication. However if we have thoroughly investigated opening previously blocked
energy channels in ourselves and in our horses, through whatever means necessary i.e.
acupuncture, chiropractic work, meditation, yoga, natural horsemanship etc. we open
the door to the possibility of riding in simplicity. This can be achieved through mutual
communication, utilizing the horses intelligence through our own bodies consciously.
This simplicity can be seen in the various exercises we train our horses to do every
single day.

For example in the "shoulder in", we should, like our horse, bring our inside
shoulder back, our outside shoulder forward, put weight on our inside seat bone. The
horse does the same, it brings it's inside shoulder to the inside, it's outside shoulder
slightly forward and it puts more weight on the inside hind leg, allowing more elevation
and freedom through the shoulders. Our outside leg is back, like the outside hind leg of
the horse, and our inside leg is forward, like the inside hind leg of the horse. This
applies to our arms and hands as well, our inside hand should be slightly higher than
the outside, like the inside front leg of the horse, as it crosses over and above the
outside front leg. This theorem applies to almost every single exercise we will ever do
with our horses. Inversely it also can show us where we are not in alignment, sitting
correctly, whether that be vertically, in misalignment, out of balance, out of rhythm,
fearfully, stiffly, etc.. For example if I see a student that is hunched in the shoulders,
most often the horse is balanced over its shoulders, rather than lifting through it's
thoracic sling muscles. Where as, if the rider is energetically activated, upward and
backwards through the area between the shoulder blades (basically the horses wither
area), not slumping, but also not stiffening this will communicate to the horse to
energetically lift through the withers.

Another example might be the fearful rider, who sits rigidly through her neck, shoulders                                                                                                                                    and arms, this will create resistance through the
horses neck and shoulder. Because of the discomfort it causes the horse. The horse
naturally does not want to move with neck and shoulder stiffness. And then the fearful
part will possibly cause the horse to become spooky, because he begins to look for
what his fearful rider is afraid of!

Another problem arises when the rider does not aid
properly, for example she wants to ride the "shoulder in" but her inside shoulder is
forward, her inside leg is back and her outside leg is forward. This causes confusion in
the horse, he does not understand why she would want the shoulder to the inside, when
her body is telling the horse to bring the shoulder to the outside. There can be a myriad
of different possibilities, with any possible variation of reactions from the horse, but not a
harmonious "shoulder in". However the physically and emotionally balanced rider will
aid first through her own body, and then through the horses body, activating the horses
intelligence and organizing previously un-obtainable parts of her horse. This will allow
for the simplest, lightest of aiding, with the least effort involved. No longer will we need
stronger bits, sharper spurs, or longer whips. For properly educated horses require only
the whisper of an energy to be directed at any given time.