Remember Curly in City Slickers? Here’s ONE of the ONE THINGS. My HERE TOO! philosophy. A lot of horses are trained to do specific things under specific circumstances. But, they don’t respond when they don’t have to. Notice if you ask your horse to move away, particularly at liberty, WHAT parts move and in WHAT direction!!!! If you ask your horse to step aside while scooping poop, it’s important that you notice how that experience went. Did he step aside or backup? It makes a difference.
WHAT PART IS ACTUALLY MOVING!???
Something very important that I’ve noticed many folks struggle with is that they don’t even know that it’s their struggle. Oi. That’s confusing. Let’s take a look at the angles to this concept.
Asking your horse to back up when they’re crowding you or you’re talking to your friend and they step in between the conversation line (yes, they know) is common. What is also common is that the horse doesn’t actually BACK UP! They tilt their head off to the side or maybe step a hoof to the left or right. THAT ISN’T BACKING! But, since they horse maybe, sort of, got out of your immediate way, it’s accepted. That makes it okay and correct to the horse, because you said it was by accepting the movement as performed. Actually it was more of an evasion movement, right?
Could the horse have backed up? Of course. Did even one hoof head in that direction? And if not, what do you do about it? Would you think it odd that with these same people and horses, when the person asks the horse to step to the side, the horse is going to go backward? How is that possible? Well, I’m here to tell you the horse is THAT good at generating points. They also know very well how imprecise and lackadaisical we humans tend to be. So, they’re just racking up the points while the person goes about what they THINK is their business. But, your horse NOT doing as you ask or doing something else should really be a higher priority.
I guess the problem is that a step here or there doesn’t seem like a ding-dang crisis just standing around in the stable area or what-not. But, where it will jump up and bite you in the butt is when you’re in a spot of trouble and you aren’t going to get your horse to do what you need. The horse has been perfecting these movements that you haven’t been conscious of constantly and it is the norm. Then, when you really want it to go your way, when you’re in a crisis, your horse is going to rightly say – Tough luck, bub, I pretty much do what I want all the time and today isn’t your day either.
Once you start paying attention, you’ll probably be shocked at the staggering number of times you have been outplayed by your horse in these manners. And I’m talking about online! Wait until you start noticing it at liberty. Can you imagine?
Well, you don’t even have to go to the trouble to imagine, just go out with your horse and pay attention. Don’t get your panties in a bunch, you don’t HAVE to do anything about it at first, just notice what you notice. Then, when you choose to start making some changes in what you accept, the horse will be stoked with all sorts of moves you haven’t any experience correcting appropriately and your horse will be scoring points ad nauseum. So what? Just keep the concept in mind and start making your requests priorities. See what you give up on and what you don’t be clear and precise on with your horse. If you aren’t… please be assured… they are!
And watch out for those tricky shoulders. No, not yours! Your shoulders are not tricky, I can pretty much guarantee that. Horses though, are exceptionally tricky with their shoulders and getting you to respond appropriately to what the horse wants to do with/to you in a power position.
So, once you start recognizing when a horse does or doesn’t do what you ask and you’re paying attention, start asking the horse to do a move here or there in all sorts of different occasions and places. It doesn’t have to make sense or be for any reason other than that you asked to see if your horse would do it and do it… NICELY!