Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Misunderstandings, mirrors and musings about "naughty" horses

As a child I was ridiculously shy. I find it funny now but let me tell you, I sure didn't back then. Going to the shop was a freaking ordeal as I had to ask for the stuff to be passed to me which was pretty much as nerve wracking as sitting on a bolting horse heading for a motorway. The days I could go to self-service places were Christmas and birthdays all rolled into one. I hated making phone calls to people I didn't know and starting any kind of conversation was just painful.
I also much preferred to listen and watch rather than talk which I do think somehow had helped me be fairly ok at my job now (at which I do waffle a lot of course! ;) ).
However, this created an interesting misunderstanding...I kept going on being that shy kid who just didn't initiate any chat until a mother of one of my school friends told me I was very arrogant...It was a bit of a news to me! I quite dreamt of being a little bit arrogant! Perceptions vs reality can be very much apart.

On Una, a mare with an interesting character, personality and various training challenges. Whenever my teaching and riding schedule allows, I only ride her first or last as she likes it so ;) Always full of surprises and questions but incredibly rewarding horse to work with. 

Onto horses now. Maybe it's my own experiences and maybe it's the fact I like to know exactly how things get to be as they are and why they are so but I have never been keen on making horses into some supernatural creatures that plan to be "fc***g annoying" and "d*cks" , "tw**s" and "being difficult" and "putting a show on" etc etc

The way I see it, in most situations (for sure there will be some exceptions) horses learn what works, and what doesn’t work. They are intelligent animals that quickly figure out how to get what they want whether it be grass, field mates, food, peace of mind...They have emotions that can override their judgements of situations and they have instincts that can override everything they were ever taught.
They almost always are our mirrors whether we want it or not or whether we realise it or not. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying we are afraid of carrier bags and that piece of wool on the floor that is slightly different colour to the rest of the arena surface. We do, however, carry many subconscious thoughts about huge amount of seemingly little details - about ourselves and about the horse we ride, about other people "judging" how we perform, about how we think we/the horse should look-so-it-looks-like-it-works-well etc - and I bet one could condition any horse owner to be a little anxious when presented with a Bag For Life if they always sat on a flighty horse during the sighting ;)
Horses mirror our emotional state, our state of mind and ability to deal with it or not, our level of confidence in own skills and in general meaning of the word. They also seem to understand when the rider really wants to help or is simply demanding something because "this is how it's got to be".

Some riders prefer not to ride when they don't feel 100% or when they feel irritated or angry. Sometimes this is a good idea. Sometimes maybe it would be a good lesson to try to empty ones mind of all thoughts and just ride, feel the horse and be in a moment, like they are.

I used to school horses for other people on regular basis but learnt that it was not always beneficial to describe what I did with them even if the owners asked and *thought* they wanted to know. I learnt that what many of those horse owners really wanted was results, not to know how they were achieved...

Nowadays, I only agree to school horses if the owners are willing to at least try to continue to work with the horse along the similar lines. With some exceptions, I limit my feedback to essential information and noticed that it works just fine.

If you try to do something logical, learning theory based or emotionally neutral with horses it's often perceived as weak or hippy or nicey-nicey. Basically no good in "proper training".  However, if it works and the horse improves, all is fine in the world.
So - if you work with horses using methods other than those based on the belief the equine species need to be dominated by an alpha member but your methods work, I would say keep on them and only chat about some main stuff that you do ;)

It's an interesting concept in itself as to why many owners prefer to have their horses' "shit sorted" and "put in place" rather than for them to be understood and trained. Perhaps it's not that dissimilar to choosing to stereotype a shy kid as an arrogant one...but hey ho, I decided it's a problem that's not for me to solve ;)



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