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!
Put On Your Big Boy Shorts
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