1. Create positive feedback loops.
When we first ride a horse we connect with, cultivating appreciation happens naturally. We’re drawn to all the things we like and admire about our new horsey friend. As a result, those attributes get a lot more of our attention!
That creates a positive feedback loop. We focus on the things we like about our horse, and in turn, our horse feels our positive and welcoming vibes (Yes, horses feel vibes!) Since they feel relaxed and willing in our presence, our horse is more likely to express the qualities we like, and then we perceive and notice those qualities and appreciate them more. And on and on it goes.
Often, we can fall into the opposite habit—especially with the horses closest to us.
When we spend a lot of time with one horse, we tend to notice the things about them that might annoy us.
This creates a negative feedback loop. We focus on that not-so-pleasant habit of theirs. They can sense that we’re tense or annoyed. In response, our horse might act more cranky or reserved because of this negative feedback. And so on, and so on.
To cultivate better relationships, experiment with creating only positive feedback loops with the horses you’re closest to.
The key to starting a positive feedback loop is to focus on what you appreciate about your horse. See how long it takes before you start to see positive changes in your horse’s reactions. You should be able to notice a difference pretty quickly.
2. Stay curious about your horse.
Your horse is incredibly complex and totally unique. There is literally not another one like him in the entire world.
Every horse on Earth contains fascinating mysteries. None of us can ever fully know everything about our horse. That means there’s always uncharted territory. There’s always so much to learn about every single horse that we love.
It takes a tiny mindset shift to stay grounded in this reality. Make an intentional shift away from the assumption that just because you’ve known a horse for a long time, you know where they’re coming from or how they’re going to be. Instead, shift toward a curiosity and openness that always allows space for new possibilities.
3. Embrace the differences in who your horse is.
This one took me a long time to learn.
For years, I was looking for horses who I “had a lot in common with” in order to connect. For sure, certain characteristics or personality traits can be a great spark for connection. But over time, I’ve found that some of my most fulfilling relationships are with difficult horses, those who aren’t easy to ride or connect with.
When I can embrace and appreciate the horse for who he is, I often find that it’s the difficulties themselves that bring me the most learning, evolution, and growth.
When a horse I love can show me a totally different way of thinking about or relating to a situation—something I’d never come up with myself—it stretches me outside my habits and helps me grow! And the best relationships are the ones that encourage growth.