It was a day yesterday, and I needed to reflect on my thoughts that teaching is a young horse in training.
You have to overcome the herd mentality by developing a strong relationship, and giving firm, kind direction in order to reach the goal with steady progress. Warming up before you ride is essential for both mental and physical readiness.
When a learning goal has been reached, or the day’s work is done, you can’t just turn the horse out; you put away the tack, brush the sweat off, check to make sure the hooves are clean, and cool down both muscles and mind, before the horse has grain, hay, and pasture for the night.
Never ride a horse at full speed toward the barn, as it will end up making them barn sour. Always provide enough variety in activity, to keep a horse’s mind and body working at the optimum. A horse’s day starts with a good meal, and plenty of water.
One of the most important and meaningful steps for training (both new and older horses) is that time between horse and handler for groundwork. The horse must be groomed, scratched, and learn to know your voice and touch. A soft, low, gentle voice, with a firm, respectful hand will bring a horse alongside a handler.
When you do begin to ride, balance is essential. When the handler is off-balance, the horse can be easily confused. A horse need clear, simple directions, both spoken and felt. Redirect a horse heading in the wrong direction to be successful. The handler must use patience and skill to teach a horse to cross the raging river they are so scared of with confidence.
One of the basic lessons is to teach a horse to pick up his feet, one at a time, by gaining their trust. The horse must first understand who you are, and that you are not going to hurt them, but to partner with them to learn about their world. No one can simply throw a saddle on a green horse and expect them to know what to do. You cannot begin with a ten-mile trek up a steep mountain.
You have to expect to fall off once in a while, it is part of the learning process. You just look back at what happened, and figure out what went wrong and work from there. You always have to get back on and try again! There will be resistance to new learning, when the young horse is not familiar with it. The task is to help them understand that they are safe, and help them gain the confidence in their ability to perform the new task.
Keep horses healthy. They cannot do the work of learning when they are wondering where their next meal will come from, or if they’ll find any clean water to drink, shelter from approaching storms, and protection from predators.
To begin, you have to connect with eye contact, and soft touch. There has to be a reachable goal, and you must look to where you are headed. Always start from the ground up. Every horse is different – raised in different pastures, different handlers who have different styles and perspectives about what creates a strong and desirable horse – you have to work with these differences in each individual. Each horse brings a different challenge, and you must build on the strengths and help them overcome the weaknesses.