“You are training your horse every time you ride.”

I hear that quote a lot. It is always said, and received, with a certain profundity. Everyone thinks about it, and agrees with a little nod.

Me too, until recently. Maybe because it has sunk in so deeply that it has crossed the line from something obscure into a statement of simple fact (2+2 is still 4)… But now mostly I just think – “duh. Of course.” It just seems so elementary that every interaction between your horse and anyone teaches them something.

Some lessons bear repetition. Maybe to be sure they stick. Sometimes, to assure Pony that the rules have not magically changed overnight. Sometimes just because you both have fun and feel successful when you get it right.

Now, turn that sideways. Does every interaction between you and your horse teach YOU something? If your mind is open – and you are paying attention, it should. Some lessons, it seems, bear repeating. Hawkeye wants to be sure they stick. For example – he continues to work with me on the “leave your grumpies at home.” He is a patient teacher – and consistent. When I am tense, he holds his mirror up for everyone to see. Oh, it is something of a funhouse mirror, to be sure. If my mind is elsewhere and not paying appropriate attention – the reflection looks like dancing on the crossties. Thin patience looks like inability to pick up feet. If I am angry, he projects disobedience. That usually gets my attention. I am not asking for obedience… am I? Cooperation is more my style, isn’t it? He is never aggressive… but he is not above proving how much taller he is than I am.

He applies his aids in a careful proscribed order, asking with increasing strength. “If you won’t focus on me, I will continue to move around so you have to pay at least enough attention to contact the fur with the brush.” If I don’t respond he follows it with the ever popular balancing all 1500lbs of beautiful black pony on one foot. Last, and most serious of his repertoire “can you see how my nostrils flare, from down there, tiny human”?

But he also rewards the try. If I take a step back, close my eyes and breathe deeply for a few moments he will bring his head back to eye level. If I can shut out the barn chaos he might let me clean out his feet. If I relax, and realize the fight was all on my side, he will let me lean against him and play with his ears as he nibbles his hay.

And when I remember to leave my grumpies at home – and he reflects my patience and calm back at me – we both feel successful because together we got it right.


~ by irrationalcat on May 19, 2014.

3 Responses to “Training…”

  1. Wow, what a post! Thank you for that change of perspective. I try to see the world trough the horse’s eyes and I know that when he is unable to obey when riding or doing groundwork the reason is most likely me being in his way. But I haven’t yet zoomed in as much as to find every of my actions and humors mirrored in his behavior. I will keep an eye on that the next time I am with him. Thanks again!

    • Ha! You know – I can’t claim that Hawk doesn’t have moods if his own (god forbid I interrupt dinner!). But I do find when thing are spiraling in a bad direction it is time to look to myself for the cure! Thanks for reading!

      • Just recently I was back from a clinic – insecure and quite full of doubt if my ways are right. The horse was trying to avoid me instantly. As if he would try to tell be to pull myself together and get back to normal again. And right he is. We shouldn’t strain them with our emotional baggage.

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