An attitude of gratitude – article by Georgia Bruce

“Look for the best in the horse, then help that best come out into its fullest expression”.

It seems to be true in life that we get what we focus on.

Unfortunately many people get very negative when training their horse. They want perfection immediately and expect it all the time. This then causes them to get angry, frustrated and annoyed when the horse does not live up to their expectations.

The horse is only ever doing the best thing it knows how at that time. If the horse is behaving in a way that you don’t like, it is simply because you have not taught the horse another way of behaving in that situation. It simply tells you that you did not prepare the horse enough for that situation.

Your mind is like a laser beam, it will search for the answer to whatever question you ask. The questions you ask will also help or hinder your ability to find creative training solutions.

For example if you say “why is my horse such an idiot!!!!…why won’t he just stand still when I get on!????” this will effect the way you feel. It will also make you aggressive, impulsive and most likely it will not help you to find the most creative training solutions.

On the other hand if you were to ask this question: “How can I better prepare my horse so that he stands still while I get on?“.

Notice how this question makes you feel and how it might influence your ability to find a creative solution.

It also helps if you can make the question as clear and concise as possible, break the question down into single behaviours. E.g How can I teach the horse to stand still while I gather up my reins, put my foot in the stirrup and mount.

Now you will be able to break the behaviour down and train each behaviour before adding the next part of the sequence to it.

  • Train the horse to stand still while you gather up the reins.
  • Then train the horse to stand still while you gather up the reins and put your foot in the stirrup.
  • Then train the horse to stand still whil you gather up the reins and put your foot in the stirrup and lean over the horse.
  • Then train the horse to stand still while you gather up the reins and put your foot in the stirrup and get on.

In this way the behaviour will be much more consistent and consolidated. The horse will clearly understand each part of the movement and be relaxed about it. It also helps you find out exactly which part of the sequence caused the horse anxiety.

Just for interest a good way to teach the horse to stand still while you get on is the following:

  • Lunge the horse until they want to stand still.
  • Then go through the motions as though you are going to get on.
  • If the horse moves one step, as them to step backwards one step.
  • If the horse really wants to leave, then make them work a bit harder on the lunge again.
  • Then bring them in and let them stand still while you go through the motions as if to get on.
  • Repeat this many times, get on and off a few times, allowing the horse to stand still.
  • Then send them out to lunge again.
  • Soon the horse will be happy to stand still while you get on and off, rather than working hard on the lunge.

Develop an attitude of gratitude for every effort you horse makes.

If you are having trouble, then break the behaviour down into smaller steps. Make sure a behaviour is consistent before you try and build on it.

Oh and it also helps if you love your horse!

Georgia Bruce is from Kuranda in Far North Queensland.She has represented Australia in Dressage on eight occasions. Most recently at the 2008 Paralympic Games where she won two bronze medals riding Carolyn Lieutenant’s 18hh horse Victory Salute. Georgia also competes successfully in open dressage to FEI level as well as cutting, western events, horse sports, hacking and reining.

Georgia specializes in training young horses and retraining problem horses. She also gives lessons and clinics around Australia helping people to get the best out of their horse and achieve their goals.

Visit her website

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