The older I get, the more I value a safe ride above all else. With so many variable conditions on any given day – me, the horse, the weather, the trail - I need all the help I can get. I’ve been reading books by horse trainer, Craig Cameron lately and came across a gem that helped my horse Sport and I just last weekend.
”(An) excellent verbal cue, and one not commonly known or used, is the hum. Many reiners use a hum to relax and slow their horses. When the horse hears it, the hum tends to relax and slow his rhythm, speed and cadence.”
I often sing while I do mindless barn chores but never thought to hum while working with Sport. I’m always seriously concentrating when I ride. There’s so much to think about - toes up, stay loose through the hips, hands soft, shoulders back - making it a nonstop checklist looping through my brain.
Even when I groom, it’s serious business making sure I don’t miss a mud clod or a tick or a cut. However, this past Saturday the wind was strong and we had a loose tile on the tin roof of the stable that kept clanging above us. Sport was on high alert, ears twitching and eyes darting at the unusual noise. I started humming a favorite hymn while stroking him smoothly and steadily. Within seconds he was calm and so in turn was I.
My riding partner was under the weather so Sport and I headed out solo, which is rare for us. He began tossing his head, looking for his horse friend and after a few steps he planted his hooves, refusing to go on alone. Despite my forward cues, he tried to turn to go back to his buddies. I brought him to a halt, took a deep breath and started humming, hoping to calm myself as much as to calm Sport. We began to circle and I would direct him out of the circle only when he was heading away from the barn. We continued this activity until he grew tired of the circling and acquiesced to walk in my preferred direction. No fighting match or blowups from him or me.
I know humming distracted me from my worst-case-scenario thinking and helped me focus on the task at hand. Sport and I feed off each other so when I’m calm he will be also. I’ve tried many relaxation techniques and this one has moved up to the top of my bag of tricks.