I’m headed out to work with a horse. I have my plan. I go to the corral and the horse looks out of the side of her eye and mosies away acting as if. Now, that wasn’t on my plan so what do I do? Maybe I go and try to corner her. Her butt is facing me and she swishes back and forth each time I try to get to her head until she has me swishing back and forth? Then she out-maneuvers me and breaks away and we start over? I finally manage to get a rope on her neck, halter her and drag her to the tack up area? Finally, I can get on with my plan. Yet…
Chatting with another trainer I’m mentoring and she tells me that she feels she’s really going so slow with this Mustang she feels like she ‘should’ be doing more so she’s ready for the competition in Ft. Worth, yet… when she got on for the first time, the horse was fabulous. Yep.
Now I’m riding a horse that has been quite difficult. Balky, balky—she could have had the book written completely about her. But yesterday she was perfect. Today, I get on hoping we’re over the hump, walk off for a short bit and she stops. Just stops. Ain’t Goin’. NOPE! Do you get it? NO!
Part of being a good horseman (or a good anything for that matter) is continually humbling yourself to become better at what you do.
What we consider progress is a judgment call. Getting something we decided on accomplished. Getting it done on our terms, with all our criteria. Reaching a certain point in our goal.
So, if something else happens it’s… a judgment call as to whether it’s good or bad.
Subjective, opinion—Yep, progress is an opinion. So, that means your horse probably has a different opinion. He can’t be wrong and nor are you. Goals are important. Yet, the problem arises in how we feel about what has transpired. It’s easy to get frustrated when things aren’t going our way, but in actuality it’s the perfect time to make progress by learning how to approach the situation a different way. Or to learn to change the timing or feel. Or, and this is a big one, to learn how to recognize the frustration and NOT get frustrated. That’s some of the best progress.
What is your horse’s opinion of progress for the session? What type of progress is the horse making. Learning how to frustrate you? Or learning that you will keep trying to figure out how to influence her while maintaining both your integrity and that of the horse.
Many if not most of the problems we have with our horses come from not taking care of the small stuff. The horse steps toward us with the shoulder a bit bargy and we shift back never even realizing that we moved. We just taught the horse how to move our feet.
When the horse says NO consider that that’s what we’re thinking he’s saying because it isn’t what we want to do. Maybe the horse is saying “I want to do this.” Now I’m not saying the horse isn’t saying no, just that there could be many reasons for why he’s not doing what you want. Your signal may be confusing. You might not have gotten his attention. He may not know how. May be scared. And a host of other possibilities.
“The feel from the horse tells a person what that horse is understanding and not understanding. A good horseman uses their better judgment to make choices, based on the feel they’re getting back from a horse. Another way to say this is that their choices are unlimited, but only one will be the best.” – Bill Dorrance
Raise the bar level of your awareness. You’ll be amazed at how good your horse becomes at stuff you didn’t even work on because they understand your clarity and precision.