I was kinda torn about the subject matter as SO many good topics came up in the last week or so. Guess I’ll just have to write more and faster! My list gets longer than my cross offs.
This comes up with new students, people I’m watching or talking to at events and seminars I’m teaching
The story generally goes something like this: I’m talking to someone while they’re tacking up horse tied to the trailer. Horse had been standing relatively quietly before person started the ‘process’, but is now dancing back and forth, pinning it’s ears and swishing tail.
Person keeps chatting with me and side-stepping swinging horse. Then, person unties horse while holding the saddle.
In my best innocent voice I inquire, “Why did ya untie?”” Person says, “Oh, she’s always like this (meaning pulls back). I have to put it on and walk her in circles several times, move it up a hole and keep doing that 4 or 5 times. Just takes about 10 minutes.
Maintaining my blank look (as best I can), I say, “And about that ear pinning, teeth swinging around at you, tail swishing and hoof stomping?”
“Oh, she always does that, but she doesn’t bite me.”
Me, “Geee, what a sweetheart. How old is she?”
“How long have you had her?”
“Since she was a baby”
So, every time you ride horse for a dozen years, you spend this time and… accept this behavior. And the general statement from folks with this, in my humble opinion, big issue is, “That’s the way this horse is.”
Well YEAH! Because no one is saying STOP that!
This is NOT just a huge waste of time every time you ride for 12 years [@ 4 x/week = 48 hours/yr = 576 hours spent TRYING to get the girth/cinch snug]
Training-wise – the horse wasn’t started properly or it wouldn’t be doing it. But, still, could ya take just ONE of those 576 ours and correct it? YES!
That’s all it would take and then you’d have to pay attention to the least twitch of an ear in the inappropriate attitude.
This is all about staying in the moment. People seem to understand this statement in theory, but not in the reality. If you step toward horse with the saddle and ANYTHING inappropriate occurs… a bracy movement, a move away or toward, an ear twitch/ugly eye/lip curl/tail switch with attitude, THAT is the moment you should be aware of.
The correction should be small if it works. Maybe, an index finger up with a ‘tut’ sound. An escalation would be a poke with the finger. However, if the infraction is bigger on the horse’s part of course a high level of hair touching is required. NOTE: no mention of a higher lever of energy from person. Raising the level of signal or correction doesn’t mean you get angry or frustrated. That changes the balance and intent of what you are doing and the results will be less clear to horse.