Quietening horses by getting their head down is a bit like coping with stress by drinking, it might get you by but you’re not really dealing with things properly.
I recently had the privilege of fence sitting (auditing) one of Ross Jacob’s clinics here in Victoria. My biggest take away from the clinic was to question everything any teacher or instructor tells you. As Ross says, never assume that what you have been told is correct, ask questions of your instructor and get them to explain themselves until you are satisfied. I think this is good advice, there are so many different explanations from offered by so many instructors it is very easy for riders to be left with conflicting ideas. If an instructor is unable to explain why they do things as they do there is a fair chance that they themselves only do it because it was told to them. I recommend anyone interested in horses check out Ross Jacobs at https://www.goodhorsemanship.com.au/. I had a great time at his clinic and I look forward to the chance to see him again.
I like to stand quietly with my horse for a few minutes after riding, particularly if it has been a demanding session. This seems to fit a horses’ psychology. Horses will run each other around but afterwards they share quiet time together and all get along. I think if a rider doesn’t take the opportunity to share time like this with the horse, then the rider risks being perceived only as an aggravator by the horse. Someone who appears a couple of times each day and nothing more. On many occasions I have noticed a horse really relax and be very playful with me after a ride while we were just standing around. I think this is even more valuable if we are new to a horse.
The mistakes you learn from
Sometimes with horses you will make mistakes. That’s OK, you are human. You should be grateful that you are even aware that you are making mistakes. Plenty of people just go on in their riding making tonnes of mistakes that they arn’t even aware of. At least if you can see your mistakes you can see what you need to fix.
Break time for horses
Does a complete release of pressure lead to boredom for the horse. When we drop the reins, the horse has nothing to do, but they also know they can’t leave. Is it better for the horse to have a job to do when they are with us? A bit like working in an office job, if you had finished all your tasks and the boss says ‘ohh well you can take a break for a while’. And you think ‘but I am in an office?!’ and you would be happier if you had something to do to keep you busy.
Started flag work with Chip today. Had to remind myself that when introducing the flag you want to create enough pressure for the horse to respond and learn but not so much that it is unnecessarily stressful for the horse. Chip is pretty calm and he seems to understand me well so finding a good balance for him was no big deal.
The bronze horse
I unwittingly named my horse after Julius Caesar. He came with a place holder name ‘Clancy’, a name I did not much care for. The previous owner confided in me that he was tentatively called Clancy in absence of any other name. When he arrived to me I sought a name that I preferred and that seemed to suit the horse. It was his colour that did it, he has a real bronze look to his coat, particularly in the sun. I thought, what name comes to mind when I think of bronze. Statues are bronze, the Roman Empire occurred shortly after the Bronze Age, and Rome sure has its share of statues. I sought an ancient Roman name, and Gaius came to mind, only afterwards was I reminded that Julius Caesar is actually named Gaius Julius Caesar.
How horses view humans on the ground and on their back
I don’t know if horses simply view humans as just other horses, but once they work out that you are not going to eat them, they definitely apply the same rules to you that they apply to other horses. This includes gaining confidence from you being around them, trying to push you around and when to kick or not kick you. The only time this really changes is once a rider is on a horse’s back, they lose that confidence they had from having you around as if you were another horse and feel as though they must take on the role of being a ‘leader’ to themselves. They will make their decisions as if they were a horse on their own. When riding a horse alone you need to give him time to figure out how he is going to react, or how he should react, as if he was on his own.
How well do you serve your horse?
‘The greatest favors may be done so awkwardly and bunglingly as to offend; and disagreeable things may be done so agreeably as almost to oblige’ – Lord Chesterfield.
You can imagine being in a restaurant and when your food arrives it is slapped down on the table and the waiter vanishes instantly. On the flip side the waiter might bring the bill, something you would rather go without, and if it is brought to the table in a courteous manner, it could be delivered so well that you might be more than happy to pay its amount and add a generous tip. This is true for people as it is for horses. You see people giving a horse a carrot: the horse may come away from the experience even more nervous and unsure of the person than before, however, if a person is agreeable enough with the horse, he will feel very comfortable with the person and and maybe even seek them out in the future. This applies to pretty much every encounter you have with a horse. So much of what we do around a horse is physical, a bit like a hairdresser for people, there is a level of trust required. If your hairdresser is erratic, clumsy, inexperienced you will not go back to that hairdresser. So I like this quote because for me, it summarises good horsemanship.
A patch of grass.
Sometimes you take your horse out of the paddock to someplace that has lots of fresh, green grass, say by the side of a road or something. The horse hogs into the grass without a thought and seems to really enjoy it. Then it comes time to put your horse back or to move onto the next thing and so you have to take your horse away from the grass. You notice them get kinda cranky about it and you just know they are blaming you for having to leave. They show no sign of gratitude for having had access to the grass and just seem to get dark on you for taking them away from it. I think too often people are like this, we begrudge when we no longer have the things we had but were never particularly grateful for having them in the first place. Makes you wonder how many things in your life are a moment of green grass that you should appreciate while they are there and how many things you consider a baseline entitlement.