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"The Secret to Horsemanship: There is no Secret"
I frequently get inquiries from folks reaching out for help with...
Catching their horse
Loading the horse in the trailer
They ask for "just a few pointers" or ideas on what they can do to fix their horse's problem.
The good news, is people have realized they need help. The bad news is their perspective.
Each of the scenarios I listed is a symptom, not the issue.
They all have occurred because there has been a lack of clear communication, the concept of pressure used in a POSITIVE manner has not been established, and the horse's initial minor behaviors communicating his discomfort/fear/insecurity/anticipation have been ignored.
The horse's behaviors are a reflection of his brain and emotions. They are often a result of a build-up of increasing stress, which eventually leads to the obvious moments of resistance. But that actual behavior is not the issue.
The way in which many folks word their questions when asking for help frequently feels like they are expecting an answer about some "secret" in how to interact with the horse so that he suddenly complies with what the human wants.
If there is any "secret" to be shared, folks need to stop approaching horses as if they are standing to wait and serve the rider. They are not. They have their own emotions, confidence levels and history with humans.
So if there were any "secret" that I would share, it would be this:
Those who would like to be involved with horses need to take the time to educate themselves.
This does not mean watching one set of DVDs and believing you have all of the answers.
If you speak with any quality horseperson, they will tell you horsemanship is a continually evolving journey, even for the most experienced horseman. Every horse has something new to teach the human.
There is no "endpoint" in the journey of learning. With that statement, many folks get disheartened because society has taught folks that instant gratification is a positive thing. It is not. It creates the illusions of success, without the true commitment to learning knowledge.
So, if you are having issues with your horse, my best advice is to start with yourself. How much time have you put into your own education? Not everything you learn or everyone you learn from will be something you mesh into how you interact with your horse. Perhaps it is learning what NOT to do.
The average pleasure horse enthusiast does not have enough hours in the day nor enough exposure to a variety of horses to achieve the skill-set they are potentially striving for without reaching out to further educate themselves.
So as a starting point, remove the self or society imposed expectations that you "should" be doing x,y & z. Eliminate the pressures of all the past events and occurrences. Delete the critique from your vocabulary and replace it with a positive alternative lingo.
And then allow yourself the time and opportunity to learn. Whether you have access to a variety of horse facilities and events, or you are limited to reading articles. Start to absorb information. Then question the ideas and notice where you don't have an understanding or where you might have misgivings. And then probe further until you find clarity.
What about learning from videos? I know watching horse trainer videos seem like it would be an easy way to learn. Here are some things I have begun to notice, as the person who on many occasions has had to "fix" what someone attempted to emulate with their horse after watching training videos:
A.) There are many horse instruction videos that are not taught with clear communication, therefore the viewer does not realize what they are missing.
B.) Many times the action the viewer is attempting to learn about (take trailer loading) is often far down the path from the interactions and communication they should be starting with their horse.
(Like people trying to write paragraphs without using a full alphabet.)
C.) Unfortunately, many videos teach in a seemingly clear-cut step 1, 2, 3 mannerisms. This makes the information seem easily understood when watching it. Then the person heads out to practice what they thought they learned, with their horse. And then the horse offers a behavior or response not addressed in the video. So now what can the human do? They don't know because they were trying to copy a task, versus understanding how to present the necessary conversations to accomplish it.
This is because if people are only trying to emulate what they are seeing, they are missing the mental concept of the intention. They are not understanding the nuances of when the horse is asking versus telling the person. They are missing all of the necessary pre-established "tools" and options in how they communicate.
I am very well aware that there is a limited time in our already hectic days. But if each horse enthusiast just spent 10-15 minutes a day specifically focused on learning (without the horse in hand,) there would be massive improvements in their awareness, understanding, and approach.
Yes, it may take time to sift through ALL the different training philosophies and mentalities out there.
My suggestions when you hear, read or watch horse-related information is to consider if it falls into any of these three categories, then perhaps it isn't offering the positive support you'd like to incorporate in your own horsemanship:
Is it ego-based versus supportive of the horse?
Is it about "making" the horse or challenging the horse to get "it" right?
Is it focused on task accomplishment irrelevant of the horse's behavior?
And last but not least, I'll be cliche, learn to ENJOY the journey. Learn to quiet your mind and be present in the moment. Appreciate what you are learning, when you and your horse are trying, even if it feels like you are searching and experimenting. Acknowledge you and your horse's efforts. In the end, this is what the real "secret" to grow into the quality partner for your horse is.
Would you like more help with your own particular scenario? Find out what Sam's REMOTE HORSE COACHING can do for you!