One of the greatest tools we have in training our horse is knowing how to read our horse. One thing often forgot about is the eye blinking tell us so much about a mental state of the horse and where the horses mind is. A sign of a truly relaxed horse is one that blinks and uses his ears and does not lock them in one position. Just like most things in horse training it’s not the one big thing that makes the difference but the lots of little things. Reading a horse is the same. It’s not the head down and cocked hip that are the true tell.
We want our horse mentally present with us and their eye is the best way to tell where they are mentality. Next time you flex your horse look and see where he is looking. If he is looking out and away chances are when you let go his head will immediately shoot back to the front. If the horses ear is is on you and he looks back at you his head will tend to stay there a second after it’s released and will go back to straight in a relaxed manner. This shows the difference between a soft and a light horse. A light horse can work off a light feel but is still not mentally present with you and is just obedient but the soft horse is there in the moment with you paying attention waiting for your direction. The soft horse is willing.
softness is needed for a horse to accept and be preseptive of small cues. Subtle cues such as laying a rein gently across the horses neck will not even be noticed if the horse attention is not on you. So much of what we are teaching a horse is dependent on its attention. We must keep our horse soft by them looking for answers not being afraid of reprimand when not paying attention.
After every repetition in desensitizing I make sure the horse relaxes and blinks. This teaches the horse to be mentally present with the situation rather then block out what’s going on. This is important throughout the training process. Remember keeping a horses focus on you is the key to softness in any part of training. It is very possible to make a robot very good at its job and obedient and this makes you a trainer but not a horseman. As a horseman it means trying our best to do what’s right for the horse and a sound horse physically and mentally should be our first goal. Not what can we get them to do. As you work with your horse watch its eye it will tell you so much about the mind. Is he blinking when you ask him questions or just answering with a ridged mind. We should always strive for soft because softness tells out horse he is at peace with what we ask.