I developed Human to Horse Sensing after working with horses for a long time, racing as a jockey, jumping, doing endurance, riding dressage and working without tack on the ground and in the saddle. H2H (Human To Horse) Sensing illuminates the roots of horse behavior, horse social relationships and how humans can communicate appropriately with horses on the horses’ own terms. People who use H2H Sensing reach out to the horse through the most appropriate of the horse’s five senses, in contexts and with subjects that the horse can understand without the need of being taught through conditioning. Whether we are newly acquainted or are old time friends, the horse and I can immediately connect, on every level of the relationship that we humans call “Horsemanship”.
Genetics and physical ability aside, only a horse that likes what he does can be a real champion. Horses who lack that inner commitment, that “joy in the doing”, can manage creditable performances thanks to horses’ innate trainability and tolerance of our whims, but I want more. In H2H Sensing, a language of gesture, posture, movement in space, touch and sound lets the horse and I communicate. That dialogue, that foundation to horsemanship, means everything to me. In this article, I want to tell you about a great first endurance ride on a very promising horse who confirmed everything I hoped to achieve in a dialogue from human to horse…and horse to human!
In H2H Sensing, the way a human and horse pair works is strictly related with how the two individuals perceive the situation they live, have lived, and will live together. In “real life” individuals receive information from what surrounds them through their senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste), which never get shut down. The same individuals process the information and express themselves by the way they behave. Between two individuals, the leader is the one that has the whole plan in his mind. Between two individuals, the leader is the one in charge of the manner, quality, and complexity of the communication between them, which eventually conveys the plan, leader to follower. The leader is the one with foresight, casting his vision forward one minute to the next or a month down the road, the one who can project how the plan will be carried out and how it will change the relationship between leader and follower. From every interaction both individuals build memories that will inevitably affect their future. In the kind of dialogue that is my goal, a horse can be a follower without being submissive; a rider can be a leader of leaders.
When a horse recognizes a human being as a leader, things that could be challenging are instead possible. This is the story of what happened between me and Allegria de Los Cielos and endurance.
October 6th was a beautiful sunny day, ideal weather for an endurance ride in the backcountry of San Diego. I was riding a horse at her first ride, Allegria de Los Cielos, in the LD 25 miles ride at the Manzanita Ride 2012. Allegria is a six-year old Mangalarga Marchador mare, born at Rancho de Los Cielos in Riverside Ca, where she has lived since then, except for a brief period when she was sent to Nevada to be put under saddle. Once back from Nevada, she has lived in a pasture with four other mares, free to run and play. Before she came to be trained by me, she had been ridden just a handful of times in gentle rides around the hills in Riverside. Before she came to be trained by me, she was an untried daughter of the breed of horses that holds the Guinness World Book record for distance riding, >9000 miles in 13 months, same riders on same horses.
It won’t be possible for you to appreciate the ride or the horse if I don’t take a moment and tell you about Mangalarga Marchadors. The Mangalarga Marchador is a gaited breed of horse imported from Brazil, middling in size, balanced in build, elegant in carriage, and incredibly hardy and handy. Mangalarga Marchadors are a rare breed in the United States. In Brazil, their country of origin, given their versatility and attitude, people ride them for any purpose from working with cattle to dressage. I have been working with Rancho de Los Cielos, a breeding center for Mangalarga Marchadors in California, for the past two years.
Allegria’s owners, Jake Martinez and Theresa Longo, had many times spoken to me about training one of their horses for endurance. When they finally asked me to train Allegria, I was very pleased. I have wanted to take a Mangalarga Marchador on an endurance ride from the first day I tried riding one. Strangely enough Allegria was that horse. Her main gait is called Picada, a four beat lateral gait. That first day, I rode her bareback with just a halter, for a few minutes and fell in love with her smooth gait and her unbelievable attitude. (Youtube: Allegria de Los Cielos) From observing her behavior in pasture with other mares, I could tell Allegria was a lead mare. This makes for a wonderful partner in endurance, where being able to rely on your horse’s self confidence is a great advantage.
Part 2 to follow…