• Erin Long

Black And White

This morning on Facebook, I saw an extremely popular clinician share something that truly baffled me. It was an image of the person doing groundwork with the horse, and the words over the image said “Black and White with no Shades Of Grey.”

Presumably, they are referring to how they interact with their horses. Constantly giving either a YES or a NO with no in between.

This struck me as so utterly elementary it was honestly kind of amazing. These animals we have the privilege of working with are capable of so much more nuanced communication than we will ever understand. The slightest shift, tone, breath, or energy change communicates something to them. Adding tone to my back does not say yes or no, it says “hey can we try something different?” Gently touching a rein does not say yes or no, it says “why don’t we play with that movement with your poll bent this way?”

I understand that for many beginner horse riders it is easier to learn the building blocks with this Black and White mentality. But the truth is that is only the most basic of grunts when used with our horses. Imagine if, for your whole life, people only communicated in response to questions and actions with yes or no. Imagine how boring, frustrating, and devoid of creativity your life would be with no “maybe” no “let’s try that” no “just a bit more”. It’s no wonder so many of these bright, sensitive animals look so sour and tuned out while performing for their so called “trainers” who stand in the middle making the most primitive of communications and expecting to be perfectly understood.

I challenge you to seek that nuance in your relationship with your horse. To reach beyond “correct” and “incorrect” into “almost” and “sort of” and “good try!” We owe that to them, to strive to reach them and appreciate the level on which they observe us.

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