The five pillars
Freedom – Safe haven – Hierarchy – Trust – Language
Freedom is at the core of When Horses Choose. Each time Mia works with the horse, she sets it free and liberates it from all the horse tack. It is only when it is completely free that the horse really becomes visible and everything that it says and does becomes clear.
Mia collects a treasure trove of vital information within the first few minutes of observing the horse. Where is it positioned in its natural hierarchy? How does it relate to people? Is it calm or nervous, dominating or defensive? How does it move? This information is crucial to the horse’s training.
The horse’s progress becomes all the more apparent due to it being free and without its horse tack during training. Progress that has been clearly achieved without the need for dragging, restraining or misleading. Progress that the horse will repeat because it has chosen freely.
→ Safe haven
The concept of a safe haven is essential to When Horses Choose. As a key part of the training method, the safe haven dissolves the language barrier and creates a clear dialogue between horse and human. Mia has adopted this concept from the wild mustangs and no other horse trainer uses the safe haven in this way.
In all the years that Mia has studied and registered wild horses, she has never experienced a wild horse chase or hunt other horses around the territory. A wild lead horse sends a troublemaker or a playful young horse outside the herd, but only about ten steps away. That’s enough for them to choose whether or not they want to follow the leader.
Mia very quickly establishes a safe haven for the horse where it can seek refuge at any time and clearly communicate whether it wants to cooperate or not.
The next important step in When Horses Choose is hierarchy. Mia wants the horse to choose her as the leader and instinctively follow her as it would a lead horse in a natural setting.
If a horse perceives a person as its leader it won’t be nervous or feel the need to challenge. It will happily depend on the leader and do its job – to follow instructions.
You can always improve as a leader and achieve an even higher leadership status.
Achieving a horse’s trust is central to When Horses Choose. Without it, one cannot achieve leader status with a horse. To gain the horse’s trust, you need to train the horse to be confident about being touched all over. If a horse shows that it does not want to be touched in its mouth for example, this is an indication that its confidence is limited. And this will have a direct impact on riding and training.
According to Mia, the horse’s ears are the most vulnerable parts of their bodies.
Horses cannot survive in the wild without a sense of hearing. If you can touch your horse’s ears, you can touch it all over – and that means you have earned the highest form of trust. Mia continuously works with gaining higher levels of trust.
It is crucial, in when Horses Choose, that the trainer understands and listens to the horse’s entire language – its behaviour, body language and verbal language. Does it flick its tail? Does it lick and chew? Does it toss its head? What does it mean? At the same time, it is crucial to send clear signals that the horse can understand.
Mia dehumanises the horse and sees it for what it is and how it would live in a natural setting. It is only when the horse really becomes visible as a horse – and not a person – that everything that it says and does becomes clear and is easy to understand. That is the starting point of all training.
Mia teaches the horse to be aware of even the smallest signals she sends. Her goal each day is to refine those signals and make the horse listen to 100% of everything she is asking of them.
With Mia’s experience and clear pointers, anyone can learn to be a leader with the When Horses Choose training method. A leader that any horse would happily follow and trust.