I've received a bunch of interesting mail in the past several weeks. For the most part, it is from people who are switching from icelandic-style training and riding to good horsemanship and relationship-type training.
One of the messages that I received was from a gal in Iceland who said that she wanted to ride her horse bitless, but had no idea how to start, and how could she stop her horse from running away if he didn't have a bit.
Knowing the problem areas that icelandic-style training brings to some horses, I suggested that she choose a calm, quiet horse, one that hadn't been forced into a frame or forced to run, run, run. And start with some clicker training, doing some of the PNH 7 games, and wait until she felt that she and the horse had a good two-way communication before trying to ride bitless (make that the end goal, but enjoy the journey in the meantime).
I suggested that my horse makes a pro-active choice to allow me to use her legs, and to go "with" me, not to run away from me when I'm on her, because of the relationship we've built and the type of training that we use.
A few days later she wrote back that she didn't have the type of Icelandic Horse that I mentioned, her horse was somewhat nervous, but she wanted to try bitless anyway. She did; he ran away.
Bummer. But it seems that she is willing to continue with clicker training and natural horsemanship, so I hope that she has some success.
It can be difficult to try to describe a new paradigm to someone who is interested in making a change. It may not be an easy paradigm to grasp. A lot of it doesn't actually have to do with *actual* training. We're not running a horse around a round pen. It's hard to pinpoint... there's something more... something intangible... it's a whole 'nother thing. It takes time, patience, dedication, and maybe an "extra sense".
Maybe it's more on the mental / emotional side than actual physical work.
Another blog has an article called "What Is Attraction?" (the article is in regard to training).
One of the definitions given is: A force acting mutually between particles of matter, tending to draw them together, and resisting their separation.
I think that's how I would describe how I want my relationship with my horse, especially when riding.
Perhaps the article can help owners to get that special feeling / connection with their horse so that the reins aren't necessary to "control" the horse.
In any case, for those who are interested in finding this type of relationship with a horse, I think that Icelandic Horses can be very special in this area. Not the nervous ones, or maybe not the ones who have been trained to "run, run, run". But the naturally calm and willing Icelandic Horse who is searching to make a special connection with a human.
It's about the relationship. Not about control, or who is the boss.