"It's the thought that counts!"

"It's the thought that counts!"
Samantha Harvey & Taylor to Perfect
Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey & The Equestrian Center, LLC Copyright 2017. Articles and/or photographs posted on this site may NOT be reproduced or copied without written permission.


Being HOPEFUL: The missing link in communication

Hopefulness. Waiting and Seeing. Reactive Riding. Taking the "try" and willingness out of your horse.
What do all of the above have in common? They are a domino effect that occurs in the riding world far too often. Let me explain.
Each of the following three scenarios is acts of "Hopefulness" by riders:
Have you ever experienced or witnessed someone riding down the trail and seen something "scary" before your horse did? What did you do? A common response is the rider will hold their breath as their horse gets closer to the scary item, sitting very still in the saddle, and perhaps asking their horse to look the opposite way from the item as they "snuck by." Then they waited, and were silently hoping their horse didn't have a melt down as they passed by. Afterwards they let out a "sigh of relief" that nothing dramatic had happened.
Or how about the horse who was inconsistent about his willingness to load in the trailer. After he was caught as he was walked to the trailer the handler is chanting in hushed tones under their breath a message of hope "that today the horse would load willingly and not have it turn into the 5 hour fiasco like it had last time."
What about as you watched (or experienced) someone approaching a jump, half way through their barrel pattern or was building a loop while waiting in the box, what was going through your head (or what appeared theirs based on their facial expression) before the horse was asked to perform? And then what was the reaction from the rider AFTER the round? "I wasn't sure what he was gonna do..." "Whew, glad that's over with..." "Well THAT was a little scary..." "I hope that doesn't happen again..."
Many equine enthusiasts talk about communication between horses and their owners. This in itself is a whole other topic for another entry. What I want to mention is what about the LACK of communication between the rider/handler and the horse. All too often I see horses that have been deemed a "bad" or "ill behaved" horse. When I actually watch the interaction between the rider/handler and the horse often I find myself staring at a horse with a totally blank expression or confused look on his face due to "silence" from his rider/handler.
Then when the horse starts showing signs of worry, concern, stress, or other dramatic behavior, because he doesn't know what is gong on, he is punished or reprimanded for it. Instead the rider/handler ought to be having a CONVERSATION with the horse. The horse needs to be told AHEAD of time what is going to be asked of him. All too often the person winds up being "hopeful" and then after the horse offers a physical action does the person address him. By now, it's too late. The rider is REACTING after the event. This is what I call REACTIVE RIDING.
When people sit down in that saddle their brain tends to focus solely on themself. Instead if they treated their horse like they were "on the same team" and told the horse what the PLAN was ahead of time, the horse would have a better chance of offering the desired response to the handler or rider. BUT in order to have a plan, one must be THINKING (again, another blog topic) AHEAD of time of what, how and when they will ask something of the horse.
People tend to HOPE their horse will figure out what is going to be asked of them without ever offering any physical, spatial or verbal communication. Then when the horse doesn't respond as the handler/rider had wanted, the horse is reprimanded but never shown what the desired response had been. So the horse continues to stumble mentally and emotional, therefore physically, due to his continual existence in the "gray" area when interacting with a human. Eventually the feeling that he "just can't get it right" overwhelms him and he mentally checks out. Once he's mentally gone, there's no chance he'll physically comply.
When a horse reaches this point, people term them as being "naughty," lazy," "disrespectful, 'bad," etc., when in fact this is not the case at all. After trying all of his "options" if there is no communication from the handler/rider, the horse eventually gives up trying to figure out what it is that the person is asking of them. This is how people take the "try" and CURIOSITY (again, another blog topic) out of their horse.
In summary, by being HOPEFUL you will end up WAITING AND SEEING how your horse is going to respond in the future. This means you are now RIDING REACTIVLY which causes your horse to be operating in the "gray" area which will eventually TAKE THE TRY out of him and cause much stress to both of you.
So the next time you head out to visit with your four legged friend, please keep this in mind:

IF YOU DON'T TELL YOUR HORSE CLEARLY AHEAD OF TIME DON'T EXPECT HIM TO BE ABLE TO READ YOUR MIND AND PERFORM AS DESIRED.
Until Next Time...Sam

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www.learnhorses.com