Art of the "Mosey"
Imagine you’re at home on a leisurely Saturday with nothing on your agenda but some time to yourself. There’s a breeze in the trees overhead and the birds are singing. You’re relaxing in the hammock just getting started on the first chapter of a great book.
Suddenly, the sound of a vehicle disturbs the tranquility and you look up to see your best friend driving in. She spies you in the hammock just as she jumps out of the car, and makes a beeline straight for your peaceful spot. Without so much as a "hi there," she grabs your arm, pulls you out of the hammock and over to the car where she gently pushes you into the driver’s seat and then plops into the passenger seat.
"Okay, let’s go!" she announces in her perkiest voice. "Thought we’d go to the mall, but I hope you don’t mind if we run some errands first. Hey, would you mind driving a little faster? I have a lot of places to go. Oh, you missed a turn. Oops, that was a stop sign. Hey, are you even listening to me?"
If you’re thinking, wait a minute, MY best friend would NEVER do that to me, ask yourself a question: Could this scenario even remotely resemble the way you approach and spend time with your horse?
With horses, it’s all about the moment. With humans, it’s too often about everything else we have to get done after the moment.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having an agenda of things you want to accomplish with your horse. The problem arises when your plan intrudes on the relationship.
"You only have so much time to be with your horse, and you’ve already planned what you want to do… go for a trail ride, or go to the arena and practice something, so that’s exactly what’s on your mind when you arrive," notes Linda Parelli. "Horses can feel it. They can feel that predatory, direct-line ‘gotta do it’ approach and it’s unsettling for them. Some horses are hard to catch because of it and others get cranky or stubborn, but most of the time we have no idea what is causing it."
The key, as the Parelli program emphasizes, is putting the relationship with the horse above everything else. Goals become secondary.
"This means that we do whatever it takes to connect with the horse and have him be happy to see us," says Pat Parelli. "When you treat horses this way the difference is amazing. Instead of the session starting when you get to the arena, it starts the moment you see each other."
Approach with Permission
You set the stage for the entire session with your approach, and this starts from the moment the horse first sees you. The results you hope to achieve with your horse are based this crucial time.
Are both ears forward with his head turned toward you? Is one ear slightly turned toward you? Are both ears cocked back, or worse, does he turn his hind end to you or head in the opposite direction when he sees you coming?
"When your horse’s ears are up and pricked towards you, you have permission to approach," notes Pat. "If he’s looking away or turns his butt to you, you have to get his attention and permission. He should face you and give permission to approach."
"As soon as I can see my horse, I know he can see me. Everything starts from the moment my horse sees me, not when I catch him," adds Linda. "I focus on the first moment he notices me and I smile, slow down, retreat somewhat, or soften in some way so the horse knows I’m connecting with him and not just barging into his space."
Most of the time, horse owners simply barge into the stall or walk across the pasture and right up to the horse. They halter the horse immediately and lead him out. But if you think of the horse’s stall as his bedroom, or the pasture as his house, you’ll begin to have a more respectful approach.
Go Mosey Together
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word "mosey" as "to stroll, amble or shuffle along; to go away, move along." If you’re moseying, you’re definitely not hurrying!
You’ll realize the value of this simple step once you appreciate the fact that horses LOVE to mosey.
"Moseying is the exact opposite of rushing straight into your session. It’s a kind of emotional warm up," explains Linda. "Many years ago and in the early days of doing courses and workshops, we’d tell people to get their horse and meet us in the arena. Then we’d have to spend time helping people sort out emotional problems with their horses before they could actually learn something. The horses were nervy, tense or cranky and ‘sully’ or tuned out, but it took a little while for us to realize that this was caused by the way people got their horse to the arena.
"We started telling them to take their time, and allow a good 10 to 30 minutes to get there, depending on how spirited their horse was. The difference was amazing… relaxed horses, relaxed riders, everyone in great mental and emotional shape and ready to learn."
A student with a nervous, fretful horse wasn’t doing either of them any favors by hurrying to get to the arena. Instead, Pat and Linda suggested that student take her time approaching and catching the horse. Once the horse was haltered, instead of heading directly to the arena, the owner took the horse to a patch of grass and let him graze a few minutes. Then she "moseyed" on over to another patch of grass.
By the time the two of them had made their very indirect way to the arena, the horse was relaxed, quiet and ready to focus.
If your horse has any say in the relationship, (and he should!), there will be a bit of mosey in every interaction you have together. How much time will vary.
"It depends on the nature of the horse and the level of skill and savvy of the rider," says Linda. "It may be 10 to 30 minutes. Sometimes if a horse is really challenging, the mosey ends up becoming the whole session."
When this happens, the result is usually remarkable because the horse becomes convinced that your intention is focused on his happiness and relaxation, and this takes the relationship to a whole new level. He will start meeting you at the gate or stall door and will be more connected. He’ll show more interest in you than in the other horses or the barn.
"Barn-sour horses are actually ‘sweet’ on the barn and would rather be there than with you," Linda notes. "When you put more effort into the relationship, the reverse happens… they’d rather be with you."
Moseying doesn’t mean you lead your horse out of the stall and let him drag you around the barn yard searching for the best grazing spot. It doesn’t mean you stuff your pockets with horse treats and let him maul you. Remember, you’re still the leader and you call the shots. But you do so with your horse’s best interests – and ultimately, the relationship – in mind.
When you mosey, the two of you are going somewhere together. You’re just taking a little more time to get there so you enjoy each other’s company along the way. It may take you 10 minutes to amble from the pasture to the barn to tack up, instead of the usual three minutes, but it’s worth every second. You’re letting your horse know you appreciate him for who he is, not just what he does when you’re on his back.
Moseying works with every type of Horsenality because the horse quickly discovers it’s all about him. The art of the mosey can be tough to grasp because most horse owners are pressed for time and determined to fit in as much as possible when they’re with their horses. It takes a conscious effort to slow down and look at things from your horse’s point of view.
"It’s a discipline, there’s no doubt," says Pat. "But if you commit to putting the relationship first you’ll soon realize it’s not a waste of time and everything else improves as a result."
The Parelli Program, founded in 1981 by lifelong horseman and teacher Pat Parelli, combines in-depth equine psychology and common sense communication techniques into the ultimate recipe for horse and rider success. The Parelli method allows horse owners at all levels of experience to achieve success without force, partnership without dominance and harmony without coercion. Pat and wife Linda are on a mission to make the world a better place for horses and humans, working to inspire, empower and educate through natural horsemanship. Their award-winning educational TV series can be seen on cable and satellite in the USA and UK.