The outcome of this exercise is to build rapport with your horse. By playing Me and My Shadow you will start proving to your horse that you are interested in seeing things from his point of view.
1. On the ground, stand in Zone 3 (where you would be if you were riding), and ask your horse to begin walking.
2. Allow whatever he does. It doesn’t matter if it’s just one step or if he can’t move at all.
3. Mirror his response with your energy, attitude, posture, speed, and movements. What did your horse do when you asked for the walk?
a. Did he start walking briskly forward? Is he bold and curious? Or is he moving his feet out of fear?
b. Does he stand still or turn his head away? Does he freeze or pin his ears?
c. Does he begin tentatively walking in a straight line? Zig zagging lines?
d. Is he exploring and touching things or spooking and avoiding things?
e. Ask yourself, what does this tell me about my horse's ideas and confidence?
4. When or if he stops, let him rest for 7 seconds and then ask for forward again.
5. Continue with the exercise until you begin to find relaxation and harmony with your horse. He should appear more confident, curious, and connected.
a. This could be a lowered head, blowing out, softer eyes, more ease of movement, more willing to sniff and touch things, etc.
6. When your horse reaches this point the exercise is over.
If you are familiar with the Passenger Lesson* from the Level 2 FreeStyle program you can think of this as a similar exercise. The difference being you’re on the ground instead of on their back. Both of these exercises are great for building both yours and your horse’s confidence, trust, rapport, harmony, and relaxation together.
Quiz your understanding!
- When I play Me and My Shadow I should position myself:
- Near his head as if I were leading him.
- In Zone 3, similar to where I would be if I were riding him.
- When doing this exercise I should:
- Stay neutral and not do anything in my body.
- Mirror my horse’s mental, emotional, and physical state.
- I quit playing when:
- My horse is feeling relaxed, confident, and connected.
- When I’m ready to stop walking/standing around waiting for my horse to do something.
*A Passenger Lesson is a Friendly Game played while riding FreeStyle. To do this you will stay on your Balance Point while pushing on the horse’s neck to properly weight your seat and stay with your horse’s movements. Begin at the walk, then you may progress to the trot and canter.
Ask your horse to begin in your chosen gait and mirror his energy/attitude/posture/speed/movement. Look where he looks, bend in your body where he bends in his, feel what he’s feeling and just go with him (as long as it’s safe!). If he stops, rub him, then ask him to go again. You’re looking for connection and relaxation from your horse and fluidity and synergy from yourself as a rider.
The Passenger Lesson will develop your confidence, balance, and fluidity. It will also develop harmony between you and your horse under saddle and expand the horse’s understanding that you won’t micromanage him.
Safety note: If you can’t bend to a stop from a walk, DO NOT trot. If you can’t bend to a stop from a trot, DO NOT canter.