Posted by cntrares on November 2, 2013 at 7:25 PM

So often in our horsemanship, we get direct-lined and focus on tasks or goals instead of the enjoying the process. While some horses are forgiving enough for this approach to give you your desired result, most horses at some point will start to show negative resistance. This resistance can be seen in things like expression, lack of try, brace, etc. Left brain horses will often start to “fight” while right brain horses tend to “flee” either physically or mentally.

I see so many horse owners get stuck on drilling a task that they are having trouble with. I myself have been guilty of this poor horsemanship habit many times in my own learning journey. Practicing the task your stuck on hundreds of times probably isn’t going to fix it. In fact, it’ll typically create a bigger issue. After all, it’s not practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice that makes perfect.

So, what do you do instead of drilling a troubling task that you want to accomplish? Think about the elements of the maneuver. Typically, the stepping stones needed for completing the task are what’s broken. Stop, slow down, and decide what the elements are. Then review the steps until they are solid. Once the building blocks are in place, then put them all together and you’ll probably get the result you’ve been looking for.

Sometimes it’ll take several repetitions once the elements are in working order for you and your horse to figure out how to put it all together. These repetitions, however, shouldn’t feel like a drill. The difference between repetition and drilling is really in your attitude. It’s being passively persistent, positive, and flexible with whatever it is your horse is offering. When we drill, we tend not to adjust to fit the situation, so be ready instead to check an element and fix it if you feel something isn’t working. If you balance the elements properly ensuring that your horse is confident and connected, you’ll soon be rewarding your horse for his/her first correct completion of the desired task. You probably should quit here or move onto something else. Once your horse has confidently done the task in several sessions, then you can probably think about asking for more within a session and refining the task.

These thoughts relate to my personal experiences last week in preparing to film another level 4 online audition with my mare, Shadow. Instead of drilling flying lead changes in the week beforehand, I focused on the quality of the necessary elements like draw, drive, flexion, connection, confidenc ein both eyes, changes of direction, responsiveness, etc. In the week leading up to the audition, we only did a few flying lead changes, and I rewarded big when she offered them. On the day of the audition, I warmed her up quickly checking off that she was calm, connected, and responsive. Then I started circling her and tried the task to see where the elements were at. As needed, I checked the elements and remained relaxed and happy with her emotional fitness and try! In a few minutes, she confidently offered me two consecutive quality lead changes,and we proceeded to film the rest of our audition, which I’ve submitted and am eagerly awaiting the results of! I couldn’t be more proud of Shadow than I was that day! The difference between just over a year and now is night and day. She’s been a challenge for sure, but that has caused me to learn so many important lessons about developing a partnership.


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