End the cycle of containing spooky horses

Containment:  physically trying to "stop" an unwanted behavior, which is usually the symptom and not the underlying "issue."

How many times have you heard things like:

Block the horse's _____________....

Don't let him ______________...

Make him ____________...

When a person attempts to block, hold, or "drive" a horse they are addressing the horse's physical movement.

His movement comes from a thought, such as:

The scenario is creating stress or pressure so he protects himself with run/bolt/spook...
The movement he is being asked he cannot properly do due to physical resistance, so he counteroffers a different movement (leaking with the shoulder, tossing his head, avoiding the big, locking up his hocks, etc.)
The more the person focuses on the unwanted movement, the more they actually are making the scenario deteriorate and feel unable to get a change in their horse.

Let's change our approach and start by addressing the horse's brain. This means we have to change from expectation (even negative ones such as "he always...") and demands in our horse and adjust our focus in how we are presenting scenarios.

Start by changing the initial thoughts in your head. Each time you come to a negative or hopeful comment, exchange the critique to a positive opportunity, such as below:

Unhelpful, critical, and hopeful thoughts

"I hope my horse doesn't spook at the corner. It wrecks the whole ride that follows." This defensive riding sets the horse up to fail and just about guarantees the unwanted movement is going to happen, creating fear in humans and horses.

Positive, supportive horsemanship

"Several times my horse has spooked at the corner. Before I get to the corner, I need to check in with my horse's brain, emotions, and movement. Can I redirect his thought today, or does he seem fixated on each distracting thing happening at the barn? I tried to redirect his brain, but he offered to lean on my rein. Okay, let's pause and ask him to soften to the pressure of the rein. Now he is softer, I'm able to direct where he is looking, but his steps are anticipative and hurried. So now let's work on a few thoughts and then move to somewhere specific and then pause (could be mental and/or physically) and ask his brain to check-in. When his brain checks in, his body offers to slow, he offers to be more present, less anticipative. Now I'm going to have him look towards the direction of pressure (scary corner,) and then look away. Ooops, his feedback with his body was that he wants to look away/move away, so I can't bring him into the vicinity of the scary place yet. I'll help him look and then the moment he shows an interest, I'll draw his thought away from the scary, as the release from the pressure. Oh, now he can look for a longer period without tension rising in his body, let's take a step towards it (pressure on), and now while he's still interested in the corner, let's change the thought and look away (release pressure)... Ah good, he breathed, blew his nose, etc... Let's go do something else for a minute and then we'll come back to this place that feels good now, and gently expand the comfort zone closer towards the scary corner.

You get the idea. There is nothing reactive in how I'd help the horse. Each piece is an opportunity for feedback from the horse, which then "tells" me what aspect I need to address to help him sort through his bother.

This is also NOT repetitiously asking the horse to walk back and forth "desensitizing him" to the corner- that is ALL physical and not mental conversation and leaves the horse just as bothered.

Keep in mind we may or may not make it to the corner today. But the corner isn't the issue. The horse's confidence, mental availability, and feel supported by the rider is. The more he has those three pieces, the more scary corners, horse eating tarps, claustrophobic trailers aren't problems anymore.

The conversation between the human and horse should be consistent and clear with the horse coming away less, stressed, and more confident about the experience.

Could you and your horse benefit from a Remote Coaching session with Sam? Click HERE for details

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment!