We as humans are the predator – we want and need to control things. And, we want it NOW. The horse is prey- he reacts to the circumstances. The horse doesn’t care when or how it happens, as long as his comfort returns. Yet, the horse has the ability to reason to some degree, if for no other reason than to seek release from pressure. In the training process, we need to allow the horse to seek the right answer. That means we may need to hold a cue a little longer or change the cue ever so slightly and allow the horse to figure it out. This is how you get quicker responses, softer feel. Your horse will be more relaxed and confident. A true partnership will start to form. This philosophy is the basis of the lessons that Tom Dorrance described and Ray Hunt taught. It’s taken me years to grasp it, but the picture is getting clearer.
Successful training results from the human understanding how to see life from the horse’s point of view.
Here is how we include the horse in the training process:
- Listen to him. The horse will tell you what he’s thinking. He can communicate confusion, fear, understanding, excitement, or level of effort through his body language.
- Build a basis for communication. Ray Hunt always said, “Reward the smallest change and the slightest try.”
- Always be consistent in your cues. Start from the ground and then progress to the saddle with lateral and vertical flexion, control of the feet, and control the movement of the body. This will build a supple, willing horse, and give consistency to communication.
- Expect and accept failure. Each cue is not going to be understood and executed. Therefore, failure becomes a “teachable moment” in which we can re-evaluate our communication. It is also an opportunity to back up and make sure the fundamental training steps have been learned.
- Build a foundation for success. Everything we ask a horse to do, he already knows how to do. We are just asking him to do them exactly when we want him to do it. All a horse can do is move forward, backward, sideways, left, right and stop. Everything we ask is a combination of these maneuvers or change in speed. Start slow and build momentum. Allow the horse to buy into our system.
- Wait on the horse. Sometimes the horse knows what we are asking him to do, but he is not confident of himself or natural instincts say there is potential danger. If we wait, let the horse try, and have success, then that builds confidence in the horse. Success will build success and give the horse confidence to try new challenges. He will also learn to trust you more in the process.
- Challenge you and your horse. How do you know your horse is ready for a new challenge? Ask for it, and see what happens. Make sure your insecurities are not hindering your horse’s educational progress. Progress cannot be measured by always executing the past lessons. Add challenges to your routine that causes the horse to think. Horses become bored from monotonous routines.
I am scheduling Clinics for Spring and Summer 2017- If you are interested in hosting a clinic, contact me for dates, cost, and horsemanship emphasis. I customize based on your interest and goals. (stevejoneshorsemanship.com)