The horse is often considered a mysterious beast. Some religions throughout history have worshipped the horse as a god, or as a companion of gods. Sleek, powerful, with an unfathomable gaze and the potential to be as gentle as a lamb or as violent as a tiger, horses are an enigma to anyone who hasn’t spent a lifetime learning how they tick and what makes them act the way they do. JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa in Sonora, TX, is looking to demystify these amazing creatures. They’re offering a class in Horse Psychology that guests and locals can take in order to learn why horses are how they are, and what makes them act how they act.
A Course in Horse Psychology, Of Course!
At JL Bar Ranch, the horses are trained to react calmly to the humans they meet. They’re expected to expend their energy in healthy ways, and remember to be gentle with the two-legged creatures who are excited to meet them. But this kind of training and behavior doesn’t come at the end of a whip or under threat of punishment; it comes from a training system that respects the psychology of the horse and helps them incorporate their natural behavior into their interactions in a healthy way. JL Bar Ranch decided to launch a course in Horse Psychology after realizing that other places were sharing information, and getting it wrong.
Equine experts Jon Joseph and Sydney Béïque who work at JL realized that the guests who came to them from other Horse Psychology courses had so much of it wrong that they couldn’t let it stand without offering something better. Joseph and Béïque want people to know the history of horses, body language and mentality of horses, what makes them leaders or followers, and how to understand their movement and behavior.
One of the tools the experts use at JL Bar Ranch is called a round pen. It’s just what it sounds like, and sometimes referred to as a “lunging pen.” In a round pen, there are no corners for a horse to bury their nose in, so horse and human are facing each other and on equal footing. In the round pen, the horse is encouraged to run of it’s energy and nerves, until it feels comfortable getting close to the human. Round pens are used frequently to train young horses or wild older horses, and have replaced for most stables the “guy jumps on a bucking horse” technique of days of yore. With round pen training, the trainer works slowly and respectfully, but results are often faster than you’d expect. Once you understand and begin speaking the body language and thoughts of a horse, they are generally quick to respond because they are herd animals who long for connection.
For guests attending a course at JL Bar Ranch, the horses will get a chance to run in the round pen before meeting humans. If the horse isn’t standing quietly and receptive to guest attentions, they get a chance to go back to the round pen to get some of the nerves and energy out.
Tickets for the experience start at $50, and can be purchased by visiting JL Bar Ranch.
JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa
The Horse Psychology course isn’t the only unique experience JL Bar Ranch has to offer. With 13,000 acres of some of the most beautiful land in Texas, JL Bar Ranch offers the following:
- Horseback riding adventures.
- Trail and bike riding, along with ATV adventures for those over 16 with a valid driver’s license.
- Ranch tours.
- Infinity swimming pool and hot tub.
- Jack Niklaus putting/chipping green.
- Spa & wellness services, with a fully-equipped health and wellness center.
- Paint & sip classes.
- A walk-in humidor.
- Cowboy cookout, along with cooking classes and wine tasting.
- Skeet and trap shooting, including optional lessons, rifle and pistol ranges, along with 3D archery and more.
- 32 luxurious accomodations.
And if the Horse Psychology class and riding adventures aren’t enough of the big beautiful beasts, you can also sign up for a meet & greet experience. There are 8 horses guests can access, and a favorite is Chexamillion who is a retired show horse with a calm and friendly demeanor appealing to all ages. There are also two horses in training and two babies, one of whom was born on the Ranch last March.
Horse ‘Therapy’ Goes Both Ways
While humans are lining up to learn more about and understand the mysterious and majestic horse, they have no problem understanding us. Seasoned riders know that a horse can respond to the barest gesture on your part, and is often even aware of muscles you tense and emotions you try to keep under control, even when you’re on their back and separated by a saddle. As large pray animals, they’ve had to adapt to be extraordinarily responsive to the way people move, and feel, and the slightest movements and sounds.
So this level of perception and attentiveness makes them perfectly primed to be animal therapy companions for those with disabilities or those healing from trauma or mental illness. Equine therapy is used across the world because horses that are specially trained to respond to the human’s needs can be the calming, grounding, and solid experience a person struggling to cope might need. And for those with mobility-related disabilities, the very nature of the horse provides a helpful way for them to get around more independently and reclaim some freedom while working muscles that need physical therapy that grows stale in an office. The very act of getting a horse to trust you teaches how to begin to trust. Paying attention to their feelings and emotions teaches you that your feelings and emotions are valid and worth respecting. And having respect for the power of their bodies wrapped in the beauty of their form reminds those struggling with self image that we are capable of great things, even when no one believes but us.
Whether you’re looking to be healed by horses or learn what makes them the great beasts they are, there is nothing quite like getting on the ground and touching the soft coat of a horse. Often silly, occasionally clumsy or ridiculous, horses are nonetheless the companions that have seen humans through thousands of years of our history and have helped us develop our society into the agriculturally advanced, connected, easily-traveled ecosystem it is today.
With respect to what horses have provided society and the way learning about them can improve the way we interact with one another, the Horse Psychology course is a tremendous opportunity for those who can take it. And even if you just want to know more about the elusive horse, JL Bar Ranch has the program for you.