We teach people how to ride. We use horses as a therapy tool. We help students form and achieve their horsemanship goals. But the core of what we do is teach life skills.
Riding presents similar challenges as Life. Horse and rider are teammates, and they work together by using non-verbal communication. The rider must lead the horse with patience, empathy and clarity. They must understand and trust one another to be successful. Riders must sense their horse's emotions and react appropriately. If the rider is a good leader, they will be successful and feel the positive effects of good leadership.
Inevitably, challenges arise and riders become frustrated. Getting through these challenges takes critical thinking, patience and determination. Students are motivated to work through this frustration because riding is fun. Learning how to handle frustration on horseback carries over to teach coping mechanisms in life.
Building an equine relationship is very similar to building human relationships – each individual must earn trust with the other, communicating with patience and clarity. The horse listens and responds to everything the rider does, affecting self-awareness. If the rider gets short-tempered, their horse loses trust. With unclear commands, their horse gets confused and becomes unresponsive. If the rider looses focus, the horse takes control and does what it wants. These poor communication skills result in unsuccessful riding, which is frustrating to the student. The only way through the frustration is determination, patience and clarity. A rider who maintains good communication skills will always be successful with our horses. In this manner, students feel the role that positive communication plays in forming healthy relationships.
Participation in all of our programs requires students to follow strict rules for the safety of themselves and their horse. The desire to ride instills a sense of self-discipline, and positive behavior patterns develop. Horses help riders’ attention span as controlling a horse requires constant focus. Riders also have responsibility requirements of helping with a horse’s care – grooming, feeding, watering and exercise. Each level of advancement comes with learning a new level of horse responsibility, including health, training and well-being.
Riding is a full-body workout that benefits the physical fitness of everyone. The movement strengthens a rider’s core, improving posture and balance. It benefits flexibility as riders get a rhythmic stretching in their hips, legs and back. Coordination improves as riders must process and respond to multiple stimuli. Studies show that it benefits various levels of coordination, including reaction times, physical and hand-eye coordination. People with a wide range of physical and developmental disabilities stand up straighter, walk easier and process various tasks more skillfully.
Horses have an unparalleled way of building confidence. Their size and power command respect, but their gentle nature helps riders to trust. Riding is difficult and, inevitably, riders have times in which they want to give up. But the desire to continue riding helps students to have the determination to continue trying. The horse listens and responds to everything the rider does, affecting the rider’s self-awareness and sense of importance. The feeling of controlling a horse is absolutely empowering!
If your horse says no,
you either asked the wrong question
or asked the question wrong.
- Pat Parelli