Returning To the Herd
After a great trail ride, liberty or play session in the arena, I am very connected with my horse. Through prior and proper preparation, I have made sure that there is partnership and obedience all wrapped up in a natural and progressive plan. My horse has accepted me as the leader and mentor and tried his best. I have helped him to be calmer, braver and more athletic.
When it is over, however, I never say goodbye to my horse at the gate…..I continue that partnership as long as I can and walk him down to his herd, no matter how far away the group is. This is my gift to him, to “give him back” to his herd as smoothly as possible. It says thank you for time well spent together as a herd of 2 and to indulge for just a little longer in the wonderful connection that we developed together.
To leave him at the gate and walk away leaves a natural follower without someone to follow, a student without a teacher and sets it up for him to have to make the decision of what to do, instead of it being yours as a leader. In most cases, horses may linger for a while or will walk or run back to the comfort of the herd. He sees you on the way back as a source of disconnect. This is not what you want his last thought to be.
I have never understood the practice of humans opening the gate and “letting their horses go” sometimes with a swat on the backside, like” go find your herd because we are finished now. This can also be seen as predatory behaviour and sure does nothing to build trust and partnership, particularly because this was the same horse that was trying his best to fit into your world not five minutes before and trusted you as the leader of a herd of two.
Please take your horse back to his herd…no matter how far or how close the herd might be to the gate…no matter if it is in the freezing depths of winter or the stifling sun of a hot summer's day. Take the time to walk back into the herd together as this will continue to build the kind of connection that you are seeking.
Take the halter off gently and put your horse away with respect and rapport, however that routine is established between the both of you. I ask Dreamer to stretch and bow but it can be whatever you want it to be to signify detachment.
I promise that your horse will remember your leadership, partnership and your sensitivity to this very intimate time and he just might surprise you some day and walk back with you on the same path. ~JG~