Over the years as different horse owners have sought my help I have discovered that horses are the best people trainers ever.
On numerous occasions, I have heard things such as:
I have to feed in a certain manner or location or time so that my horse will eat.
I have to catch my horse by doing XY and Z first.
My horse loads into the trailer just fine as long as his body goes in first.
I have to get on at this location in the facility so that my horse doesn't get distracted or call to his pasture mates.
My horse ties just fine as long as he can see me but if he doesn't then he will pull back.
You get the idea.
For many years, folks can learn to work around their horse in order to avoid conflict, feel like they were accomplishing things and having a certain level of success.
But at some point, usually under circumstances out of their control, they could not present things as their horse expected.
And that is usually when people get into trouble because they realize there is a lack of reasonableness or an ability to adapt- both within themselves and their horse when a scenario unexpectedly changes.
And of course, once people are asked to change habits and patterns there's an unintentional cringe that usually follows. But rather than making it seem overwhelming for you or your horse I suggest the following three things to integrate when you interact with your horse.
1st: When you go to catch your horse change where you walk immediately after the halter is on. If you're in a pasture go find rocks to pick up. Or go inspect a fence line.
If you're going to exit a stall go inspect the horse's water bucket us with his hay feeder, and then as you leave the stall perhaps turns in a different direction than you normally head.
2nd: Practice taking more time at doing "unnecessary" things that allow you to assess the clarity and quality of your communication and the ability to influence your horse's thought.
For example: On the journey from the pasture to wherever the grooming area or tack up area is, I might break it up into three different conversations, offering three different conversations such as directing the horse's thought, changes in his direction and increasing and decreasing his energy.
Is this about him mindlessly responding obediently? Know this allows me to first show the horse that I am both mentally and physically present and I am "taking him" rather than him taking me for the walk which affects how the ride will go. This will allow me to assess if there are things I need to do before the ride in order to improve his willingness to try and participate in a reasonable manner. It is much easier and safer to sort out these conversations on the ground before sitting in the saddle.
3rd: Practice mounting and dismounting at random times in random locations, not just at the beginning and end of the ride.
People are frequently shocked when they realize how the horse assumes that if the human has dismounted the ride is over. Even though the horse may still be standing next to the person, mentally the horse is back in the pasture. And his willingness to participate typically abruptly ended even though he is still in close proximity to the human. This can lead to unreasonable behavior if the person asks something more of the horse when he has already mentally quit.
If you have the opportunity to experiment with some of these suggestions be away are but you may see behaviors in your horse that you've never witnessed if you've never asked these questions.
Be sure you are mentally clear and present to honestly assess any areas where your horse might start to show concern because you have change the pattern or what you vast of him or his expectation of a specific scenario. And then the biggest part is don't leave him hanging. Take the information even if it's something that shocks or surprises you, and help your horse sword out that even though you are changing the pattern, you will still be supportive of him thinking through and physically participating in a reasonable manner.
If you're unsure about some of the approaches in how to influence your horse's thought a d then physical behavior, remember you can always review past blog entries or find me in the Facebook group Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey #FifteenorFriday live videos that I've posted. You can find them in the search box or you can also find them in the Video section of this group. If you go to the beginning you'll find that I'm presenting information in a specific manner that can further clarify what mental availability, physical and spatial pressure is, and how to clarify communication with the horse.