Instant Gratification... Harming our Horsemanship. How auditing can change everything!
I recently finished offering a three day long Full Immersion Clinic. I've titled these clinics that because we cover so many aspects of horsemanship and riding. I never have an agenda as to what we'll accomplish. Depending on the participants and what their horse's needs are, things evolve organically. These are not sit-in-the-saddle-for-8-hours type of clinics. These are an opportunity to mentally slow down and really raise our level of awareness within/about ourselves and our horses, to better understand the conversation the horse is offering and learn how best to work with the horse in order to get the ideal ride.
I often open these clinics to auditors, folks who can participate in lectures, discussions, etc. but who are not working with the horses directly.
Although I abhor promoting myself, as I feel horse and students that have been under my tutelage will "speak for themselves", I do encourage folks who are working with me to come and watch, listen and learn, even if they aren't participating with a horse.
I remember years ago, it used to be the "die hard" horse enthusiast would find, make, take any opportunity to be around horses that they could. Didn't matter if it was shoveling stalls to get that quick ride on a borrowed horse at the end of the day, or to go to the local fairgrounds and stay ALL day, watching, petting, and taking in all the riding activities.
And the "inspiration" for this post has come up several times. In my specifically intentionally scenario of "leaving reality behind" while offering the clinics, it allows people to "let down" for the first time in a long time. Leaving stresses, work, family issues, etc. behind, and just learning to be present, here in the moment, in order to best help their horse. By day two participants are often realizing how much of a shift has occurred in "slowing down within themselves, in order to hurry up and get to where they'd like to be," with their horses.
Watching, horse after horse after horse, and different folks with varying energy levels, experiences, perspectives, etc. allows both auditors and participants to see time and again, clearly how the horses communicate, what they communicate and why they do so. By not imposing a time pressure, it allows participants to experience (and most auditors feel like they're "in" working with the horse too as they're watching from the sidelines) reading the horse, experimenting with influencing a change through non aggressive, nor disrespectful behavior from the human, and watching how quickly the horse can make an emotional shift and mental change towards the person.
Many horses don't even look physically like the same horse by the end of the session, because of the "release" from rushing, unclear communication to specific and intentional clarity from the human.
For those auditing it can be such an amazing opportunity, without the "pressure" of having to do it yourself with your own horse, and have the opportunity to gain many useful tools to work with our horses in a respectful way. It isn't about "Sam's way of doing things." Folks it is about learning "horse."
Many auditors by the end of the day are so excited to go home and try out what they've seen, but the difference is, because I'm able to break down the how, why, when we're doing what we are with our horses, it means something to the human. It is NOT teaching conditioned responses, or obedience training imposed by the human. Rather offering thoughtful conversations between the human and horse.
The difference from watching a trainer with "free videos" online and attempting to mimic the behavior seen, or buying the "fix it" halter/stick/rope/gadget, is if the human does not understand BOTH the big picture and the small details, the more "instant" expectations they have for their horse, the worse and more unclear the communication gets leading to frustration in the human and defensiveness in the horse. If you are training in a "step by step" process, you'll be unable to understand what to do, if your horse offers a behavior that you'd hadn't seen before. If instead you were able to read what the horse is asking, you'll then know what he needs from you to support him through his learning and education.
So whether you don't have the finances or time to participate in a big clinic, if you find a trainer whose methods you appreciate, take the time, put in the effort, grab a notebook and pen, and sit and WATCH. You won't realize just how much you've absorbed without even trying. Your horse will thank you for it.