To understand dynamic neutral, let’s begin with what it is not. When we see others working with horses, what we often see is someone asking a horse to do something & then stopping to stand still to let the horse know they have given a correct response. The idea is to stop all body language & therefore the pressure on the horse, as a reward to let the horse know they have done the right thing, which will encourage the horse to make a mental & emotional connection to the physical action & choose to repeat the sequence of actions. What we are, or should be striving for first & foremost, is a mutual connection to the horse. This connection is the foundation of everything we do with horses, which creates a willing participant, rather than a robot who follows a mechanical set of steps absentmindedly. How many of us have ever stopped to deeply analyze what exactly is taking place when we choose to go into this momentary relaxation or neutral between ourselves & our horse? If we’re so focused on making our horses do what we think they should, where does this leave room for new understandings?
It’s important that we begin to understand ourselves mentally, emotionally & physically in these moments & whether we’re actually creating what we think we are or the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve. When you decide to stop, pause, go into neutral, what happens to your body language, thoughts & emotions? For many, they disconnect completely from the horse & leave the horse out there on their own with no mental or emotional support or connection. We have been conditioned to focus on the physical attributes of behaviour & training only. Most will disconnect all awareness from the horse in these neutral moments & start thinking about what they’re going to do next, what they’re going to do after they leave the barn or maybe nothing at all. Then when we decide we’re going to interact with our horse again, only then do we shift our previously non-existent focus, mentally, emotionally & physically back to our horse.
These are the same habits we have developed during the beginning & ending of our time with our horses as demonstrated during the “Equine Perceptions of Body Language” video. The person with the palomino clearly shows how we are habitually disconnected most of the time & often even while we’re directly interacting with our horse, as also demonstrated by the person in the white golf cap. We often only consider a state of neutral during our training time but what about our neutrality before, during & after training sessions? Are we even aware or cognizant of a connection during every moment we spend with our horses? The portion of the video near the end shows clearly how this person & most of us completely disconnect from our horses unless we decide we want to make them do something.
This goes back to previous articles about the importance of expanding our awareness to include our immediate environment & our horses. It is the equivalent of expanding the white cloud from our own personal space to include our horse’s personal space & then contracting the white cloud to our own headspace again. I also gave the premise that the cloud had hands to help with recognition of whether the hands are reaching out to include, or “hug” our horse or are only reaching inward to include & “hug” ourselves. What do we see when horses are in the pasture together? If we were to visualize the white cloud, we would see a giant cloud that encompassed every member of the herd equally, at all times. There is never a moment of disconnection from each other until we choose to remove them.
We create all kinds of abstract reasons for horse behaviour which often revolve around external circumstances, people, places or things. We wonder why our horses are perfectly content without human intervention & then over-reactive with us. We take them from their places of comfort & security & try to force them to replace that security with us, instead of trying to understand that we are causing the insecurities, not the removal from the herd or other external circumstances. We alone are responsible for this disconnection in how we choose to accept the advice of others that is based in human concepts instead of listening to our horses & analyzing our own behaviours & belief systems. When we remove a horse from the herd for personal interaction time, what do we offer in return? We take an animal who is accustomed to 100% connection to those around them & offer limited connection, only when we decide they have to do something for us. The reasons behind our troubles with horses are purely self-induced, not due to abstract external sources. We teach them how to ignore us & focus on everything except us & leave them no choice but to want to get back to the comfort of a dynamic, balanced, neutral, constant connection.
What does the word neutral mean to you? I choose to use this word for several reasons. Neutral means idling the engine, not turning it off. The engine is still ready to go & be engaged at any moment. All of the components that have to work together to make the engine function are standing by in constant connection to each other & ready to interact accordingly. Neutral also equates to a balance mentally, emotionally & physically. True neutrality doesn’t leave room for labeling, impatience, anger, anticipation or knowledge. True neutrality accepts things as they are in the moment, without judgement & addresses the needs of the moment without the use of logical egoic interference. Dynamic neutral is about creating & maintaining a constant connection to our horses through a soft, accepting, interested, idling focus.