Welcome to Double Stitched Blog: Listening With Empathy

531070_397643676922172_207291878_nWelcome to Double Stitched blog. Double Stitched is a horse training facility in Powell Wyoming. We love all breeds of horses but we specialize in Quarter Horses and Paints. Show horses are at the heart of our business and the philosophy at Double Stitched is “the horse is your student, but maybe more important than that, the horse may be your best teacher if you can learn to listen”.

I’m Anne Sherwood and I’ll be your blogger for this site. Just to make a few things clear before we start, I’m not an english teacher so my grammar, punctuation and spelling may be off, but my heart is in the right place and I just want to share some of my thoughts and experiences about horse training and life. I’m just doing this for fun so please don’t correct my writing skills and these are just ideas, they aren’t meant to offend anyone or to solve your training problems. Please always seek professional help if you are having a training problem with your horse or if you are going to try to apply a new training method. Beginners should always work with an experienced trainer. With this said lets dive right in and talk about how riders can better listen to their horses.

How can you tell the difference between a horse telling you “no” and a horse that is trying to tell you the saddle doesn’t fit or its hock hurts? Or maybe more important a horse that is telling you it’s ready to ride compared to a horse that is telling you it’s scared or mad and it is going to buck if you step on it. Learning to listen in life may be one of the most neglected skills we humans need to master. And what does really listening mean? I believe it involves empathy. And if it involves empathy what does that mean and what does that have to do with training horses? Lets explore this.

Empathy as described in Merriam-Webster is: the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings. The action of understanding, being aware of and being sensitive to, are also words that are used to describe empathy.

Do you really understand  the importance of listening with empathy to an animal or person. It seems like this is lost art. We are so self-absorbed in getting to the top of the heap that we forget it is a living soul that we are forcing our will on. If I asked you do you think about what your horse is experiencing on an emotional/feeling level as you train it to do that event you love, what would you tell me?  Do you train to have a positive connection with your horse or do you buy into the idea that a horse must never tell you no and to you that means training using dominance and/or punishment, keeping a horse tired and being the boss instead of the trainer/teacher. I believe these are questions we as trainers, riders and equestrians should be asking ourselves.

To me listening to the horse means to question what the horse is telling you. Is it really telling you no or is trying to tell you something about pain, fear, lameness or even a misunderstanding about the cue you are giving. When we listen with empathy we are really at a level where we are trying to understand the horse not just impose our will on it. And it has been my experience that a horse really understands this and responds to this kind of training/teaching. Just the act of pausing for a second can give you and your horse the reconnection you need to come to an agreement on something. Also praise always goes farther to build a relationship, this is true with people as well as animals.

You cared enough to fall in love with the horse, now lets care enough to question our old outdated thinking/beliefs and replace them with a new idea listening with empathy.