The horse-human connection is unique in our animal-human connections. Though some dogs are working animals, we don't ride them, and cats, well, cats are pretty much the bosses of us. And most other large domesticated herbivores are livestock raised for food.
But horse and human became something very different, and it's a lot about the shared energetics and body language that have evolved and that each of us must develop on our own if we are ever to become accomplished, effective, and compassionate horsemen/women.
In a relationship-based interaction, we don't just simply get on the horse and go, and we don't coerce the horse through violence or threat.
Ideally, the horse is not just a passive recipient of our commands, and each horse, as with each rider, deserves to retain and express their own unique personality in the context of relationship.
So how is it that we connect to these noble animals? How is it that they connect to us?
I find the idea that awareness is the foundation of this relationship compelling, as a rider, a teacher, and as someone who guides others in horse-human interactions, and this section from a larger piece says so much: "Research has shown that horses and humans have developed a unique way to communicate with one another, a kind of third language, neither fully human nor fully equine. What linguists call an “embodied language system” seems to have developed – a way of communicating that’s reliant on touch, emotional connection and becoming attuned to physical movements...it’s a symbiotic and dynamic process that recognizes horses as sensitive, decision-making beings." You can read the whole article here.
Exploring and developing skills within this awareness can happen on so many levels. Physical body language is just one piece which encompasses such things as touch, movement, posture, and breath, just to scratch the surface. Our relationship with horses is also influenced through our emotions, intentions, focus, and energy.
Regardless of which level you're learning about or working on, the first step starts with awareness.