On Facebook I follow the Sand Wash Basin page. I love those horses. Especially Picasso. If you haven't been to their page or to that blog, feel free to click right here to check it out.
So I was watching some of the video's on FB by Sally Wright (also on You Tube) and I found myself really watching the herd dynamics and then thinking how much our training methods reflect on that. Of course I know this is no new revelation. People have been using herd dynamics for years, and all the big name training methods are truly based on those dynamics.
I found myself thinking of the day I rode with Kim and how she got so angry with Schnizzle when he would not lope a full circle and ended up hurting her back. When I think back to how she reacted, she did not make her leadership clear to him. She simply got angry and emotional and her message after that became very unclear to the poor guy. He was scared and confused and everything went down hill from there.
When I watched the videos I saw how Picasso, Tonka, and even the bachelor stallions controlled their mares (or other stallions in the case of the bachelors) with clear precise direction. Ears pinned, neck snaked, body language as clear as a bell. There is no doubt in the mares mind that he is in charge, and he will make them move their feet and body where ever he wants.
So now I am trying to examine my own training methods. Am I clear in my message? Do I get angry and react? Well of course I have. I like to believe that I have gotten better about it though. I have never had to wail on my horses like she did. I have had to be firm, and I have used my stick on them, but I always make a point to rub it away afterwards. This is not to say that I am better than she is. After all, her horses do not run away with her. They are soft and supple and have beautiful stops.
Most of my horses are very good about respecting my space. Sassy is starting to challenge it, but I see it and I know how to fix it. My horses are all quite good about being messed with my me or a vet, or by anyone else if needed. I have learned that when they do not care to stand still I have a tool that works better than anything. I can push them sideways from one end of the road to the other. That simple act of moving their feet in a manner that is not natural to them makes it clear that I am in charge. It also makes them quite happy to stand quietly. I do that move before I get on them too. I think it makes them think.
What about when I am riding? Is my message clear? I'm going to say no. So...how do I fix that? I guess time and experience will help. Perhaps thinking clearly what I want before I ask would help. I know having Jay there to tell me what he sees makes a difference, but I don't have that much anymore.
Jay says that if you can't ride your horse from the ground, you will not be successful on their backs. I believe this to be true. Here is my example. I can ground work Trax, asking him to trot, canter, flat out run, back up, step to the side, move his front end. or move his hind end. The only thing I cannot get him to do is stop (well walk actually) When he is trotting in his circle I slow my body down, keeping myself in position. I think walk and use my body language to say it. He still trots. I will let my air out, I can see him watch me, but he still trots. Sometimes he will finally ease into a walk, but usually I have to get out of my "riding" position and move myself in front of his shoulder to get him to walk. I have the same issue on his back. He will do pretty much anything I ask, but he runs through my hands. Bringing him from a trot down to a walk is still a challenge.
I need to think on this a while. What do I need to do different. How do I, as his herd leader make him understand when I want walk?