Getting Along With Your Horse
Getting Along With Your Horse
Less is More: Thoughts on Getting Along With Horses
Horses don't disobey; they obey what we've unknowingly taught them.
Behaviors we might perceive as disrespect are generally not. If the horse is always allowed to get away with something, he will. It's not a matter of lack of respect, it is the result of imcomplete training.
When working with a horse on the ground, apply the pressure needed to get the response you want. Pressure should be applied "as soft as possible and as firm as needed". Watch for the exact-correct response and release the pressure immediately.
When a horse does not stand solid when asked to "stand", and moves his feet a little here and a little there, the horse is asking for permission to creep up on you. If we are not focused and allow these very subtle slips, we are telling the horse that this is okay and that we don't mind if he creeps up three inches. The horse will soon creep more whenever he wants to.
It won't take long before the horse will be running into you or passing you by, because you've allowed him to. It appears the horse is being disobedient, but, in fact, he is only obeying what you accidentially taught him.
Remember that every time you are with your horse, you are training him; for better or for worse. It can be very enlightening to watch closely and see how subtle this accidental training can be!
More "awareness" less "action":
With greater awareness of the beginning of a "behavior", you will not need to engage in "big" corrective actions to direct the behavior where you want it. Therefore, tune in closely to nuances that you might otherwise overlook; feeling for that moment when the horse is setting up for a response, instead of waiting until the moment the response takes place, or the moment after it takes place. You will look to "release" at the first sign of compliance, not after the request is fully obliged.
The "less is more" philosophy, coupled with miscroscopic attention to timing, works like a charm.
Do less to get more.
How do we get results without tools to make ourselves bigger, extend our reach, overcome our human frailties? By being aware of behaviors when they are very small, supporting and guiding the horse at that stage, and not allowing behaviors to escalate to the point that tools and gimmicks would seem to be the only way out.
How do you get away with doing less? By releasing more, and with precise timing. when using a soft leading rein, keeping contact on the rein even as the horse is turning. If you keep pulling the rein when he's starting to turn, he'll start to brace. Release when you get the response, or else you are breaking the trust.
Hold the squeeze in your legs until the horse picks up some speed, then release immediately. He learns from the release.
If you're going to err, err on the side of helping the horse.
What to do about shying? The conventional wisdom says that we need to have the horse face up to the object of his fear. But, sometimes the best thing is to let it go. If you don't make a big deal out of it, the horse is likely to figure it is no big deal. Granted, it's not always necessary to dismount and lead the horse through the demons, but again, if you're going to err, err on the side of helping the horse.
It's not about doing battle; it's about finding a way to get along.
Finding ways to help the horse succeed rather than setting him up to fail, only to be corrected for it. The horse wants to please and he simply needs your guidance.
When riders do less, the horse is more open to being asked to do more. The horse doesn't shirk working with the human, just looks for the place where he can get along.
There's a difference betweeen riding ON the horse and riding WITH the horse.
By applying timing, release, awareness, attitude, mutual respect, and helping the horse, you're starting to ride with the horse rather than on him.
Have a clear vision of the response you're seeking, and be absolutely consistent in guiding the horse to that vision and appreciating him for reaching it. Seek maximum softness in every interaction, on and off his back. Identify the most subtle message between horse and human, and respond to it at a point when you can be very quiet, don't wait until the little message become a big argument.
Communicate with "seat", whenever possible, and follow up with your hands only when necessary.
By remembering to look for a mental connection with the horse, see where his mind is and respondimg to that rather than fixating on the physical will make for a great relationship.