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Understanding the conversation...

two horses being freeschooled at Pippsway Classical Natural Horsemanship Wellington Somerset near Devon

Pip has been freeschooling Henry, a new horse that has come for backing, with my horse Bronson. Bronson does such a great job of looking after the newbies, showing them how things are done at Pippsway, and it’s always such a treat when I am around to watch him in this role. This in itself is amazing as when he first came to Pippsway, Bronson was a neurotic mess! Under Pips guidance, and after all her rehabilitation training, he is now flourishing mentally and physically and is a calm and contented horse, hurrah!

I’ve been at Pippsway for some time now and, whilst there is still a never ending path of learning and improvement ahead of me, it’s lovely that I have made significant progress. Today I was watching Pip freeschool Henry and Bronson and I could both understand what she was asking from the horses and could ‘read’ their responses, both to Pip and each other. It’s such a wonderful gift to be able to understand all of those things and know what I am seeing. Freeschooling is such an art. To the untrained eye it could perhaps look like someone with a big whip making horses run around. She makes it look so easy too! Only when you’ve been the one in the menage, asking a horse to do the things she is doing with such ease, can you realise that a horse can so easily ignore you, hide in the corners, run around and not listen to a thing you are asking and so on. In fact the list of ways a horse can evade is almost endless! If you have two horses, then you’ve just doubled the odds of the horses not listening! So, seeing not one but two horses listening to Pip and seeing how she is working as a team with Bronson, who is also conveying to Henry what he needs to do and correcting him when he tries to ignore Pip, is amazing!

For the first time I was aware of being really tuned in with all that was unfolding in front of me and being able to read the entire situation felt like being in on something really special. All those hours I’ve spent freeschooling, being around the horses, getting things right, getting things wrong, are all coming together into something so magical!

It was interesting to see how, if necessary, Pip cracked the whip when asking them to extend their trot, to halt, canter or change direction. I commented on this afterward and she explained “the whip just means listen! It is the energy and intention behind it that tells the horses what I am asking”. The great thing was that I had been able to understand exactly what she was asking for. I could feel the intention behind each crack of the whip. I’ve said before that learning The Art of Horsemanship is learning a new language and I’m so excited to be understanding so much more of the conversation!

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