From the moment you enter the corral or pasture, you’re sending your horse messages. Set the tone for a successful training session with clinician Tammy Pate’s advice on catching your horse.

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I’ve come to realize that ranching is not only a way of life, but also a way of being and seeing the world. It involves living in harmony with others, as well as with animals and the land. With it comes a special awareness of intent, balance, spirituality, family values, the fragility of life, and the beauty of the inner and outer worlds.

The same is true with two of my other passions, yoga and horsemanship.

On the surface, the two don’t seem to have much in common. However, if you apply yoga principles to horsemanship, and vice versa, you start to see similar philosophies, such as balance, physical and mental strength, living in harmony with nature and being guided with an open heart.

I started practicing yoga five years ago as a way to enhance my fitness. As I immersed myself in the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual principles of the ancient art, I realized that yoga, like ranching, is more than exercise; it’s a mindset and an authentic, traditional way of experiencing life. I remember thinking, “This has been my whole life, and I didn’t even know there was a term for it.”

Yoga continues to be part of my daily ritual. In a society where people are always in a hurry and in transition from one moment to the next without stopping to see the beauty around them, yoga helps build awareness so we can take on the rest of our day with kindness, patience and focused intentions.  

In this new series, I’ll help you achieve respect, understanding and willingness from your horse through intuitive, low-stress horsemanship techniques, many of which are rooted in yoga principles.

This month, I’ll show you how the way you approach and halter your horse can affect your entire training session, as well as other horses in a herd. Then we’ll progress to maximizing your round-pen work, leading, grooming and saddling, so it pays off when you’re ready to ride. By the end of the final lesson, you’ll be balanced and riding with confidence, and your horse will be light, supple and responsive, and will perform ranch work with ease, efficiency and willingness.

Horsemanship is about being in harmony with your horse. I don’t believe horses are naturally inclined to be mean or disobedient, although poor training or horsemanship practices have conditioned some to be that way to survive.

As a horseman, you must understand how your horse thinks and reacts, and then figure out how to accommodate his and your needs. For example, if your horse won’t stand still, he’s probably signaling that he feels threatened. When a horse senses danger, his instinct is to flee, so he starts moving his feet. Your job is to find a way to contain his energy so that he doesn’t move faster than you can ride, yet he can still move away from the stimuli.

Unfortunately, horses don’t come with instruction manuals. Each person and each horse is wired differently. However, in this article series, I’ll give you some universal concepts you can adjust to fit both you and your horse.

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