|GOAL ORIENTED VS UNIVERSAL HORSE
Most people ride with a goal oriented perspective.
They aim to show, trail ride, work cattle or other.
horses can be okay within the realm of their experience: they become familiar
with a jumping arena, dressage arena, cattle, or moving along a trail.
I like to see horses that are universal. A roping horse should be able to
clamber over or even jump a small obstacle or fence when presented to him. A
jumping horse should not have a melt down and become impossible to "deal with"
if he is passing an arena full of cows. He may want to stop, look, smell, and
consider the cows for a moment or two, but then ideally should be able to
continue on with his ride with no left over tension or stress from his encounter
with the cows.
IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS
I like to create horses whose minds are open and
available to any situation. This means that to create a relationship with the
horse, the rider has to become aware of influences around the horse and its
reaction mentally, emotionally and physically. Through assessment, the rider
will come to know his horse's current temperament at any point in time and then
how to influence the availability of his mind to create the enjoyable
horse/partner that he is today despite past experiences.
I have a Thoroughbred who is now 11 years old and spent a number of years on the
race track where he won $90,000. When a particularly stressful situation arises,
he will try to control his anxiety if he is being helped by the person working
with him from the ground or the rider. He will consider what you ask of
him...can you look left, can you step here...his mind is available enough to
influence to think his way through the anxiety he is feeling. The result is
that a big horse that can be even bigger and explosive will remain controllable
and manageable and not bolt or dislodge his rider. He can stay rational despite
A five year old Quarter horse that I started
lightly at two was a dream.
His owner decided at some point to put him on cattle and moved him to a
different trainer. Within several months, the owner wanted to sell the horse;
had begun bolting, bucking and reacting irrationally and extreme in stressful
situations. Based on my initial experiences with the horse, I was happy to buy
him. I found a complete change from the horse's original character and realized
this horse approaches life with a false sense of security and confidence. On
his own he can "think" his way through any situation. But if he is in an anxiety
situation, he demands to make all decisions, which if left to his own devices
creates patternized behavior and thoughts that only reinforce his current fears,
frustrations and unknowns. He is not available to allow or seek help from a
person when he is stressed because he already "knows" what will happen and he
would rather react in an almost aggressive and flamboyant manner (as a defensive
move to protect himself) than slow down and have to work with a person to
address the anxiety by thinking his way through it in small steps in order to
come out with a relaxed, warm fuzzy feeling on the other side.
So given two horses in the same stressful
situation, I would probably rather ride the big TB whose mind is more available
to "hear" the help offered by a person rather than the independent Quarter horse
who figures he can take care of things on his own. This is often the case when
working with a "bombproof" horse. The horse has enough experience and exposure
to things that people feel he is "safe" to rely on. This is true as long as the
person riding allows the horse to make all "major" decisions. If a rider or
person on the ground asks something of a horse like this that is "different"
than "normal or usual" these horses tend to react in the most extreme manner
when forced to "think" about something that they may not find is important.
They are convinced "you're not doing it right."
HELPING YOUR HORSE
when we ride there are obstacles along the way whether it be a mailbox, a
slamming trailer door, a flag or umbrella near an arena or other potential
"crisis" opportunities as seen by the horse. Generally, people do whatever is
necessary to get past and "survive" the crisis. They continue on with no
thought as to whether after passing the "stressful spot" the horse has been
helped, influenced or affected to be more confident when addressing a similar
situation in the future. Repetitive experience and exposure has been the common
method of "training" a horse. But think back as to how your horse reacts each
time a new or unknown situation arises? Can you help him adjust quietly
(mentally, physically, and emotionally) without the crisis becoming an issue?
Students find that from the first
lesson, they can begin to work independently and know what to look for. By
the third or fourth lesson, they have begun to think for themselves and are
asking stimulating questions both of their self and their horse.
At a recent learning center where I improve my
skills while trading ideas with a like thinking trainer, other participants were
quite impressed that my horses came over to me from across the round pen to be
mounted while I waited up on the rail. Each one carefully lined himself up with
me at the rail and stood quietly. What they couldn't believe was that other
people's horses would also come over to me to be mounted after being worked with
for only a short time.
the horse understands that you are asking something of him, generally he will
try for you.
The major error made is killing the horse's
willingness to try. This can be done by a person reprimanding a horse for not
physically responding quickly enough or to the degree that they expect a
response. Sometimes it is important to accept the horse's effort and stop there
for the day because his change or success is a big deal to him although it may
be not near enough to what I had hoped for.