What Does it Mean to Dance with Horses?

Have you ever watched horses in a pasture? They seem to dance. One horse walks forward, the other steps back. One horse arches her neck and trots down the fence, the other mirrors, arching her neck and trotting alongside her. One horse rears playfully, the other does the same. Horses are natural dancers.

Dancing is a conversation. Good dance partners seem to have a relationship. Though one person leads, the two are constantly in tune with one another. The partners are in perfect rhythm, in synch with every step.

Horses in the pasture mirror each other.

Horses in the pasture mirror each other.

This is just like riding horses. Whether you are on the ground or in the saddle, you are leading a dance with your horse any time you are in contact.

I grew up riding dressage. When friends asked curiously what that meant, I told them it was sort of like dancing with a horse. I learned the importance of balance, and emotional connection. Subtlety was critical--how can you ask your horse for a movement as quietly as possible? I can still hear my trainer saying, “Don’t forget to ride every step” as she walked me to the show ring.

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When you are in tune with your horse, it is almost like they are an extension of your body. You can feel every step they take. You can almost feel their thoughts. Your horse feels your body too. They know when your weight shifts from one seat bone to the other. They know when you look down. They even seem to begin to anticipate your thoughts. Have you ever had one of those perfect rides, the ones where all you  do is think about cantering and your horse picks up the correct lead?

Though this is the example that is most relatable, there are countless other daily interactions between horse and human that are the equivalent of dancing. When you are leading your horse, trailering your horse, or even grooming your horse, you are engaged in a sort of dance. Horse’s are so sensitive, and they are able to pick up on, and then react to, even the smallest change in your body language. A refined horseman is the same. This creates a dance-partner-like relationship between horse and horseman.