How do you connect with a horse on your dude ranch vacation? Author of ‘Leadership Wisdom From The Herd' and guest author for Top50 Ranches, Marina Parris says being fully present is the only way to truly connect with people or horses. Read on to find out how and see our top three guest ranches where you can connect with horses...
Can you have a connection with a horse?
Absolutely! Many of us will have grown up with the wonderful, timeless stories of Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, National Velvet and others, where the human lead role develops a deep friendship with an often wayward or 'difficult' horse.
"Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued," says renowned research professor and author, Brené Brown.
And horses are no different from people in this instance. As mammals, both rely on engagement and connection to feel safe and happy with someone.
When you truly connect with a horse or person, the quality of the interaction shifts and becomes more meaningful.
What does it mean when you connect with a horse?
In general, connecting with a horse on your Top50 Ranches dude ranch vacation can result in a feeling of mutual understanding and safety.
When you have a good relationship with a horse, they may show you trust and respect by willingly following your lead, and acting in a calm and relaxed way.
When feeling that amazing human-horse connection at a guest ranch for the first time, some people say they also feel peaceful and at ease, as if the horse has had a calming impact.
Anna Twinney, Bitterroot Ranch, Wyoming USA
How do you connect with a horse on a dude ranch vacation?
There are many ways to establish a relationship with a horse on your dude ranch vacation.
However you choose to spend time with horses at a Top50 Ranches guest ranch, creating a good conection with these amazing and gentle animals is always built on mutual respect, tolerance and trust.
Here are Marina's five easy ways to connect with a horse on a dude ranch vacation – give them a go next time you're on a dude ranch vacation, whether you're a horse rider or not!
1. Get into the present moment
True connection is a matter of the heart and 'being present' means finding a way to get out of your head and into your heart.
Humans mentally live in the future by worrying about what may or may not happen, or they live in the past by re-visiting experiences in their mind or by continuously talking about these experiences to others.
A truly fulfilling life can only take place in the present moment, otherwise life is just passing you by!
If horses were busy worrying about when the next predator will show up or ruminating about what happened yesterday, they would continually be stressed and miss out on what's happening in their environment.
Their instinct to survive keeps them fully focused on the present, so they don’t miss any potential threats to their survival.
Breathing techniques for entering the present:
The key for humans to enter the present moment is the quality of their breathing.
To get out of stress mode, you need to change how you breathe and take five seconds for a deep in-breath, and five seconds for a deep out-breath.
Close your eyes and take a few deep in- and out-breaths, noticing the changes you feel in your body and mind.
When you can center yourself like this, you're ready to connect with a horse or any other living being.
Changing how you breathe will change the quality of every interaction and also the quality of your life.
2. Observe the herd
If you wish to connect with horses on your dude ranch vacation, head on down to the stables 10-15 minutes earlier and just observe the herd, so you get a feel for how the horses behave around each other.
This helps you get used to being around them before doing anything with them.
3. Spend time around the horses
Echo Valley Ranch, BC Canada
When on your dude ranch vacation and you're looking for more time with the horses, why not head down to the corral and see if you can help out?
Participating in grooming, feeding, providing water and caring for horses is a great way to connect with them, and is a great way for them to get to know and trust you, too!
4. Greet your horse respectfully
Say hello and greet your horse before getting on.
Reach out your flat hand slowly and allow the horse to smell it.
If you want to stroke his head, imagine your heart in your hand and ask permission from the horse, if it’s ok for you to stroke it.
Recognize that horses have a blind spot in front of their face and can pull back as you approach with your hand. That’s why you move slowly.
If there is any resistance, back off. Horses are like people, some easily accept strangers, while others need more time to open up to new people.
5. Remain connected while riding
The trail riding experience on your dude ranch vacation can be very exciting, especially if it’s the first time for you!
Continuing to use the deep breathing technique outlined above while riding has many benefits.
It will relax you, especially if you are new to riding, allow you to move with the horse more easily and help you avoid sore muscles after a long ride.
However, don't sit on top like a sack of potatoes, make sure you're naturally upright, but not tense!
In case you get nervous and hold your breath any time during the ride, go back to deep breathing, as this will not only relax you, but also the horse.
By being fully present on horseback, you will enjoy the beautiful countryside more – leave your worries behind and fully embrace the beauty of nature on your dude ranch vacation!
3 amazing dude ranches where you can really connect with horses
If you'd like to spend more time connecting with horses, a dude ranch vacation to one of our guest ranches or working ranches is ideal!
Here are three amazing dude ranches that have a real focus on the horse-human connection:
The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch, Wyoming USA
This riding-focused Wyoming dude ranch ensures their clinicians from around the world are respectful, low stress and open-minded, and all about the horses' and guests' needs.
They're professional and experienced, friendly, safe and patient, and will ensure your ranch vacation horseback riding experience will be second-to-none.
Explore The Hideout
McGinnis Meadows, Montana USA
McGinnis Meadows' riding focuses on Buck Brannaman-style horsemanship – working with the horses' natural instincts to gain their trust and loyalty.
This Montana dude ranch encourages a hands-on experience with the horses and you can bring your own horse, or ride one of theirs.
Work on your horsemanship skills and become confident with horses in an arena, on the trails and working cattle.
And why not join one of the amazing Buck Brannaman-taught clinics?
Explore McGinnis Meadows
Bitteroot Ranch, Wyoming USA
Bitterroot Ranch offers a Natural Horsemanship approach focusing on methods of training that emphasize the development of trust and partnership between horse and rider.
Through demonstrations, lectures and exercises you will experience how all contacts with your horse form a communication system.
Also discover Healing Horse Sessions through the use of reiki, and Centered Riding and other clinics to provide you with insights into how you can improve your riding, and enhance communication and cooperation with your horse.
Explore Bitterroot Ranch
Original article written by Marina Parris, Coach for Equine-Assisted Learning.
Co-written, edited and created by Kate Hammaren; luxury and adventure travel writer, editor and world traveler.
Banner image by Archie Boiselle
Marina Parris was born, raised and went to UC Berkeley and USD in California before moving to Switzerland in 1993. She later discovered horses, and left her corporate job to pursue her passion of working with people and horses, and works as an Eponaquest Instructor in equine-facilitated learning for individuals and companies. Marina has written two books on horses and humans, and brings a message of transformation and healing to her work.