Thursday, July 9, 2009

Two tidbits of the day

Two quick things that came up on our trail ride today that I wanted to brush over quickly:

Trusting your horse

Grazing while riding

Trust your horse
Trusting our horses is difficult when we're unconfident ourselves or are unconfident in our horse. However, how can we expect our horses to trust us if we cannot trust them? The key, I believe, is prior and proper preparation (getting a little repetitive, I know). With a well-rounded horse that is properly developed - emotionally and mentally balanced, there is no reason not to trust. Adding experience to that horse's resume can further our trust that they can handle whatever situation we throw their way. Experience, used correctly, can greatly strengthen a partnership between horse and rider. On that note, partnership is very important - not only do you want to develop a calmer, braver, smarter horse, but you also want to earn their willingness to work with you - their trust, respect, and ultimately, their partnership. Personally I do tend to underestimate my horses. I prepareprepareprepare and then forget that after all that preparation we've done, that they can handle it! Then when I show distrust in them, they lack trust in me, and the vicious circle continues. Usually the lightbulb moment hits me when I ask a horse to do something new and they handle it flawlessly - and I realise that they had probably been ready for awhile and had just been waiting for me to ask them. Today, the point hit home for me when I refused to trust my 5yo OTTB Link, and he couldn't trust me sufficiently (in that situation) at that point (with more continued prep it will come!). The situation: a very steep hill I was holding him back from going up until the other two horses ahead of us had cleared it. I did not know how he would handle the hill and by holding him back I had hoped to create space between us and the last horse and therefore leave room for error (such as his possibly deciding to bolt up the hill). He got so psyched up and since I was asking him to not move forward, he went the only other direction I hadn't ordained as off-limits - up. His head won an argument against mine and I slid nicely off of his 16.1hh butt to land in the mud. He then proceeded to carefully pick his way up the hill I had been so concerned about entrusting him with, and waited for me at the top. See, if I had simply trusted him in the first place, I would have been a lot cleaner up at the top (lmao). The rest of the trail ride I threw all caution to the wind (just kidding) and threw my trust into him (not kidding). He obviously knew what he was doing, so who was I to doubt him! He never failed me once and tackled the terrain beautifully. We each learned a lot today and invested a lot of additional trust in one another throughout the ride - it was an amazing feeling. There are times we need to trust our horses and there are times when the partnership is perhaps not ready yet for such a challenge, where the trust just is not there yet, but if you are wavering on the edge - not sure if you can trust your horse to handle something (and you've done all your prep work at home), go for it. Trust the horse. They usually know what they're doing!

Now some people - a lot of people, I find - allow absolutely no grazing while a horse has a bit in his mouth. They claim the horse can step on his reins (difficult, I find, when the reins are up in your hand in the saddle), that the bit gets too dirty (hey, isn't that what water was invented for?), or that the horse is too disrespectful. Now the latter, I can understand. There are certainly times I will revoke a horse's grazing privileges - no more grazing throughout the ride. However this is rare. If you've got a decent level of respect from your horse and you ensure you clutch that respect as tight as you can in your grimy little paws, you should have no problem. Here's my theory:

Horses spend their time, packing us around, doing what we want. Most often, the horse doesn't even get the vote on what they do. Now, I have no doubts that a horse can enjoy their time under-saddle (hopefully that indeed is the case), however I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that they still sometimes might have better things they'd rather do. Like, y'know, eating. I don't know about the next person, but all our horses love to eat. So, since this is a part-ner-ship, which includes two beings, my personal opinion is that we should thus include our horses' interests into the activities that we do. Coming in from the pasture, lounge a bit instead of marching directly up to the tackroom. After, or even before, a good session under-saddle or on the ground, do some liberty work! Perhaps most important of all, consider your horse's interest(s) when considering disciplines. For me, this also crosses over into trail riding through lush grass fields. My rule is this: provided you (the horse) keep up your end of the bargain (continue responsibly at the gait I asked), go ahead and eat to your little heart's delight! Works like a charm. For a horse that abuses the privilege though, they hit some boundaries. Rather than pulling on a horse's mouth (which I guarantee you will find yourself doing over and over), just bump the horse gently with the reins - by closing your hands and allowing the horse to 'hit the end' of the rein - and instead squeeze with your legs and go through your "ask" phases quickly (squeeze with all four cheeks, squeeze with your thigh then finally with your leg, then spank yourself with the rein ends and move the spanking down to eventually touch the horse, increasing the spanking until you get the response). For the particularly rude horse though (who is being irresponsible by ignoring your forward request) you can go through your phases even quicker and almost go straight to the spanking phase. Make it their responsibility though - they continue moving forward, you're quiet, they stop suddenly without permission, they run into the spank. This way they have the choice. Courtesy of John Lyons ;)

This thought came about though today when my mom, on her Thoroughbred whom she wasn't allowing to eat at all under-saddle, commented on my allowing my Thoroughbred, Link, to eat as much as he pleased. I explained to her that he wasn't losing any ground by grabbing food along the way and he was being respectful about it - he wasn't reefing any reins out of my hands, I was allowing him to eat. We were doing what I wanted, so why shouldn't I allow him to do a little of what he wanted? It made sense to her. "Well what if you decide you don't want them to eat, though?" she asked. My response was that, ultimately, they are your rules - you're the leader. So if you decide there is no eating under-saddle today, your horse should respect that. I pointed out to her that since she'd implemented rules with her horse and had made it clear he wasn't to eat, he was now walking calmly through the fields alongside me, very respectfully walking forward without continuously requesting to eat grass. It's your rules, since you are the leader - whether you decide to only let your horse eat at stops, to let him eat while you walk, or to not let him eat under any circumstances, is up to you. However, keep in mind that you can allow him to eat - it doesn't have to be disrespectful and it does not have to be a complete no-no. Furthermore, horses are smart, so you can change your rules up - they get it. Just be consistent in a rule once you implement it and they will figure it out and abide by the new rule.

1 comment:

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