While out teaching recently, I experienced something that I just HAD to share with you!
I went to visit a horse and owner who are relatively new to horsemanship ground training, and new to each other. The owner only purchased the horse a couple of months ago.
The horse is very sweet and tries so hard, but she is also reactive and anxious, holding her emotions inside when feeling confused or around high energy.
Well she got pretty stuck at one point in our session the other day…
My client was practicing a game I call ‘walk the line’. The game is all about getting the horse to move off of pressure from the lead rope to go forward or change direction.
It was going ok for them, but I could see that my client wasn’t quite getting enough feel on the lead rope and so the horse was deciding for itself when it would go, how fast etc …
Not a good place for horse or human to be in – both compromised.
This game is pretty tough on your arms so when my client needed a rest I took over for a bit.
Quick Tip – want to build great arm muscles? Do this exercise with your horse very day …who needs press ups!
The horse immediately shut down to my feel and tried some big ‘fancy threatening’ moves to get me to back off and when this didn’t work, I saw and felt her make a decision… and her decision was NO!
So how do you help a horse that is saying no?
Knowing that backing off, or doing something different in this instance would not work.
How can you not blow the trust and respect you have built in your partnership? This is a very tricky place to be.
What you need to have is a toolbox. Your toolbox needs to be filled with strategies that you can pull out and apply in any situation. Not only when things get tough, also when things are great.
This is where understanding groundwork principles gives you a huge advantage in being able to support and positively influence your horse. From principles comes strategy.
In this situation I reached deep into my toolbox and pulled out the pattern interrupt strategy.
I have built up a large toolbox over the years, and am usually drawing from it daily to help horses!
How I decide what to pull out just happens by intuition, and if it doesn’t work I reach in and pull out something else, again guided by my intuition. Trusting that if it isn’t right I can just go back into my tool box and get something else.
Anyway… the pattern interrupt strategy I instinctually knew I needed would have to be pretty interesting because we were really stuck! So I got a little crazy with a wild dance of sorts 🙂 My client got as much of a surprise as her horse did.
I leaped around with lots of high energy like a crazy woman, looking absolutely ridiculous, trying to move the stuck energy to get the horse to move her feet freely forward.
I am most happy to report that my crazy jig got her moving again, and just as important, interested and engaged with me 😀.
Now that I had her moving again, I introduced ‘walk the line’ very quietly and after a few goes, she started to respond to my feel. Pretty soon, thank goodness as my arms were almost dropping off, she became soft and followed the feel on the rope without any resistance at all!l
Time to call it quits and let the horse relax while my client and I reflected on what had just happened.
I know you know that being around horses can be quite challenging at times, and requires you to be very mentally and emotionally together.
It also requires you to be prepared for anything!
Having a toolbox stuffed full of positive strategies you can use to help your horse, is the secret sauce to training success.
If you think you need to expand what’s in your toolbox or would like to increase your horsemanship skills, please get in touch by email to book a session either online or in person. Email: email@example.com