Does Training Really Begin?
What was your attitude when you woke up and thought about training
your horse today? Did you think about how excited you were? Or did
it raise feelings of nervousness, fear, anxiety, intimidation, or
Did you ever think that from THAT very moment you might have already
started training your horse?
Imagine having those same feelings when you approached your horse’s
stall. Your body language reveals your thoughts, feelings, and
attitude, which affect how you present yourself to your horse.
Horses are master interpreters of body language.
Now as you approach your horse’s stall, your horse will respond to
your physical “presentation.” Are you weak, aggressive, distracted,
enthusiastic? Are you dreading that a consistent problem will
re-occur? If you seem small in presence, not stature, he may be
pushy or completely ignore you, because he doesn’t see you as a
leader. If you seem overly strong in presence not strength, he may
avoid you and go to the back of his stall. He may even get fearful,
defensive or aggressive. Does he look forward to coming out or see
you as a walking feed cart? By your presence, he will know what kind
of leader you plan to be, if at all. It all started with the
attitude you projected when you approached his stall.
Next you start to lead him out of his stall. Do you ask him to pay
attention to you or let his attention wander off elsewhere? Do you
vary your pace or direction or stop and see if he is listening and
respecting your actions? Will he move away from you when you ask or
does he crowd you? Is he looking around distracted or spooking at
things? Or maybe he is dragging you along?
Now you arrive at the place where you tack him up. Is he patient or
does he paw impatiently and wish he were somewhere else? Untying him
would answer that question. What do you think he would do? Does he
bite at the saddle and get resentful and defensive? How could you
get him to welcome you putting the saddle on him? Does he just zone
out and surrender? How could you make him feel enthusiastic about
coming out of his stall with you?
You’re now ready to warm him up. Can he focus with a full tank of
energy (you might want to use that energy someday)? Did you just
turn him loose or run him around until he was tired while letting
his mind wander further away as his focus grew weaker? Did you
filter out his pent up energy through various actions such as
transitions and changes of direction? Did you have him respond to
very specific cues that require him to get more in tune with you and
become focused and thus self-regulate his energy level?
You now reach the point where you are ready to get on. Whatever you
did or didn’t do with your horse is going to determine the kind of
riding experience you have with your horse today. Any lack of
attention, distractedness, spookiness, or resistance experienced
under saddle may have started back when you entered your horse’s
stall. Everything is cumulative, from your attitude toward working
with your horse, which sets the tone for the relationship, to all
your interactions up until just before you get on to ride. You were
fostering his attitude toward you personally, and the process of
training or interacting with you. You were establishing the kind of
relationship you would have. Whether you realize it or not, even now
you’ve already started training.
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