Blaming my horse. Assessing the communication gap.

When I assume my horse “should know better” the truth is at that moment, I’ve really just run out of creativity, patience and my knowledge of equitation science.

Training horses is not so much horse sense as horse science. It’s not whispering. It’s not mystical. By understanding how horses learn and see the world we can solve training issues with more logic and less emotion.

From equitation and hunter judge, Anna Jane White-Mullin:

“After hearing lots of excuses that began with the words, “my horse,” it occurred to me that the rider’s language said it all—I am a victim of my horse. The way it is supposed to work is that the rider is the brains and the horse is the brawn. When problems arise, we are supposed to “outthink” the horse…

The language of success begins with the word, “I.” ”I” am having trouble getting my horse over the fence. ”I” am unable to keep my horse from spooking. The word, “I,” is the language of responsibility…. if you abdicate responsibility, you’ll be a victim of your horse’s whims till the end.”

 A rider’s responsibility:

1.laying a foundation of distinct cues or aids

2.communicating those cues clearly to the horse.

3.testing that system of cues in various environments

And for those of us who coach and train professionally, it occasionally requires taking a HUMILITY PILL!

When hitting a snag in the training ring or show ring do I take a deep breath and assess the communication gap with my horse? A deep breath takes the emotional aspect out of the picture. And the assessment using insights from equitation science: Does my horse understand a clear system of aids? Have I delivered the system accurately? No abrupt signals or mixed messages?

As a coach, that “deep breath” is my opportunity to assess – Am I communicating this clearly? How does my student learn best? Could I use a different illustration? Different words? Would it be helpful to get on the horse and feel for myself for missing “buttons” or points of resistance?

Assuming my horse or student “should know better” closes the door on a learning opportunity for the horse, rider…and me!