Wednesday, November 26, 2008

If the horse is leaning on the bit, it's already over!

For a while now, in fact quite a few years, I have pretty much known how to make most horses feel ok while I am on the ground with them. But the big challenge for me has been how to do it while they are being ridden. I have searched and searched, asked and asked, watched trainers who I really like, even looked in books, but I have never been able to really pinpoint what the actual key is to to the mind of the ridden horse.

I have had a few theories along the way - things like how we feel, what we take to the horse in terms of our confidence (or fear) and so on. I thought I was on to something when I saw the effect on some horses of relaxing the poll. But then I saw that horses can do that and still be tight physically, and in their minds - relaxing the poll kind of disarms the horse but it doesn't actually get the change I want, and also the overbending issue really is wrong.

I have watched people ride their horses round and round saying things like, 'there we are, that part was good', meanwhile on the rest of the circuit the horse practises a load of stuff you don't want it to do. That's what I'm seeing now as 'pot luck' horsemanship, because now I am convinced that training the horse and how the horse feels, should and can be, completely in our hands (good sort of a pun there I'd say).

So, how to do it, that's the question? Well, the first thing to take on board is that it's no quick fix, it's not a patch up job. What it is is a deconstruct and rebuild job, or if it's a young horse, it's a 'get it right from the start' job. And yes, it's all about our hands and the horse's mouth. Of course this is all assuming you have some kind of working relationship with your horse, and I mean by that I guess, some kind of idea that the horse is there ready to work for you. After that, well, I'm not going into the details here, but just to say we have changed a horse around that we were on the verge of telling the owner, we couldn't do. It's about getting the horse's mouth right, and getting the horse in balance - that's the secret. And, it feels good for the human too!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

When the student is ready, the buffalo will appear

Thanks to Row for the title of this post.

I was teaching this guy a few weeks ago. We were getting on fine but he must have picked up on the fact that I wasn't quite telling it how it was. He turned to me and said, 'Look Tom, I've paid my money so tell me the truth ok. I'm rubbish aren't I'.

That got me to thinking about teaching. It is a subject I am very interested in anyway, and I have watched a lot of people over the years trying to pass on information to their students in various different ways.

There is a bit of a tradition among a section of American horse trainers that they are slightly blunt, almost rude, or sometimes, downright rude to their clients. This is justified by the argument that you have paid your money so you deserve to be told how it is. I once heard a trainer tell this girl, 'You think you have good hands don't you, but your hands are rubbish. Your horse will hate your hands.' I don't like this approach at all - and I'm not so sure it's about helping the student learn, so much as making the teacher feel Big and Powerful. But on the other hand, and this is where I do worry a bit, I know I like people to like me, so it's not good tactics for me to make myself obnoxious, even if I do feel it is the best way to pass on the information my client is paying me for.

I am getting better at telling the truth. If I think it will help then I will say it, but I do still go out of my way to be as polite as possible. It's just a terrible ingrained habit that we English people have.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I didn't write this

...the purpose of horsemanship is not to be nice to the horse. It is not to be gentle with the horse. It is not to be different from some older and traditional ways, whatever those are. Horsemanship has one purpose, and that is for the human to make herself CLEAR to the horse. For when the horse gets clarity, he also gains inner peace; and there is no other way for him to gain that peace when in human company. Thus, to be clear is the greatest gift we can give the horse, the true face of charity and compassion. Clarity is the thing we owe the horse for the privilege of handling him.

But I agree with it 100%.