How scary does someone have to be before you move away from them? How scary do you have to be for your dog to move away from you? How much of your training relies on your horse moving away from you?
For a long time Chip was only used as a trail horse. This meant that without a horse in front of him to follow he didn’t really have any guidance on with which direction to go. I have struggled to rectify this however now, finally, I can leave him on a loose rein and he walks straight ahead.
The fact that horses enjoy hanging out with other horses and people so much may seem a bit silly when it is a nice sunny day and all is quiet on the farm. But to understand why horses enjoy this you have to consider where horses evolved from. If you try standing out with horses on a cold drizzly night, with poor visibility, and everything is dripping and sloppy and noisy you might see things more from the horses point of view. The horse doesn’t know that it is highly unlikely that a ravenous pack of wolves might pass through. With poor visibility and a fair amount of ambient noise having friends around can add a good deal to your confidence. Having extra eyes and ears around is a good thing and of course there is a fair chance that should the worst occur, it is your friend that gets carried off into the darkness and not you. So I can relate to horses enjoying having me around during the good times, they probably think ‘gee maybe he will stick around till nightfall, that would be swell’. Perhaps to a horse, having additional humans and horses around provides a similar feeling that humans get when they know they have a comfortable home to go to and some money in the bank.
It’s much better if you can learn from other people’s mistakes. That’s what Warren Buffett tells people and I think it holds pretty well for horse riding too. We tend to spend a lot of time going around doing the same thing over and over while we wait for a horse to change or improve. By talking with others about what they are doing and learning, a rider can significantly broaden their access to new experiences.
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.
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.
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.