Currently I have a lot of horsey work to do as well as my day job of running the company that is TestPro. So things are a bit hectic and tempers can sometimes be a little on the short side and horses being horses decide at the moment that you are lacking in time that they are going to ‘play up’.
You know the scenario, they decide they are not being caught, or pretend they are a kite flying in the sky or there is a monster in every bush or wheelbarrow. When I was having a particularly difficult time with leading a yearling colt of mine and being bitten whilst my back was turned for the third day in a row, my temper was definitely lost! He was growled at (for this read some particularly tasty language) and pinched back on the neck, I pondered why we seemed to be going backwards in our relationship and training. I adore this boy and he is one of my homebred so I want to do the best for him.
I realised a couple of things (been here before I promise I am not that dumb) one that getting cross wasn’t helping and the other was that he was teething and guess who was the nearest he was going to get to chew on. So we have been trying some new ways of leading and talking to each other which is helping us both. His preferred thing to do is chew the end of the lead rope or the chain part and we now start our journey to or from the field with a bit of a cuddle and a scratch. I realised that in my rush to get things done I wasn’t spending any ‘quality’ time with him, yes I know that sounds all mushy but a yearling colt is just as ‘needy’ as a human one!!! So far this new regime that has been going a week or so is working really well, keep your fingers crossed for me.
With the older horses I was watching a rider school a week or so ago and was a bit shocked by the use of hands and the aids in general. It was obvious that the rider was both frustrated and annoyed and the horse was getting ever more tense. Now we can all get ‘holier than thou’ and say why didn’t they do X or why didn’t they get off but if you have had a bad day or your horse is not in the right frame of mind to learn it can happen. So what should you do? I like to take a break and have a walk, just allow both horse and rider to have some downtime in the schooling session whilst I reflect on what is going wrong and what the horse isn’t understanding. Then pick the reins up again and do something that the horse finds easy and reward the good behaviour. If you have calmed down by this point then maybe go back to the exercise that was causing the problem and break it down into small learning chunks. Reward every bit of progress, and importantly ignore when it goes wrong. But make sure you are ready to analyse your behaviour, your body language and also your aids before you criticise and get angry with your horse. They can only learn what you teach them so be kind and patient.