Temper tantrums

A subtle jerk and spur. An aggressive back-up.  Barking out “WHOA!” with a scowl.  As a judge I see them (and sometimes DQ them). As a coach I talk riders logically through them.  And I sadly recall a few of my own!

 In the fishbowl of the horse show, it’s natural to lose it when we feel embarrassed and disappointed.  But consider this- if we think of the horse as a machine, pre-programmed with all the buttons in place, isn’t it natural to want to kick the tires or slam the dashboard?  “He should KNOW better!”

I wonder if novice riders were taught earlier about how horses think and learn –even before learning correct diagonals, heels down and shoulders back -we might see fewer temper tantrums at the shows.  I like to help those I teach to THINK through the snags. To think like a horse and with empathy, consider every signal or aid they send to that horse. What do I intend to say when I use this cue? What does it feel like to my horse?