Wacin's training journal
If you confuse your horse, he may feel threatened
SD is a confident horse. Since my accident, I am not as confident as I would like to be. I have found that if I am working on something new, and he doesn't seem to be getting it, I tend to have even less confidence in myself. I used to find myself feeling angry - not at SD - at myself. But he could feel my anger and he would become confused. Once he became confused, he would lose some of his own confidence. The last thing I want to do is take away his confidence. I needed to learn how to handle my own.
Here's how I did it.
If things aren't going the way I planned, and I realize that I am getting frustrated, I immediately switch to a very easy lesson. My favorite is what Parelli calls the yo-yo game. Calling SD to me and then backing him out of my space. Calling him in again and backing him out again. He knows this lesson well and performs it perfectly. After a couple of yo-yo's, I ground tie him and let him stand while I think about what I need to do. I only need a minute.
The reason I switch to a standby is to get SD's mind off a failure and put him in an "I can do it!" frame of mind. Then he simply needs to wait for my next cue.
I have three choices now.
1) I can continue the lesson I wanted to do if I can find a different way to approach it. - Best when I have plenty of time, am in a good mood, and can think of a different way to approach it.
2) I can spend some time doing lessons that we both know, and try this lesson again on a different day. - Best when I can't think of another way to approach what I planned to do and/or just don't feel like getting frustrated again. This is also a great time to do a lesson we both already know, but add a twist to the lesson.
3) Forget the lesson (for today) and play games. - Best when I don't have a lot of time. I always throw a couple of lessons in before we quit work and play. Five minutes is plenty. It ensures that SD doesn't realize that he is getting out of work by not learning.
Playing is important. There are some games that SD really enjoys. When I let him play, it keeps him happy to have a halter put on and brought into the arena.
It's so easy to confuse a horse. It helps to understand that, when we start something new, he has no idea what I am trying to do. (Although I do tell him what I want before we start). Hubby happened to walk into the arena one day when I had a book in my hand and SD was looking at the pictures over my shoulder while I explained to him what we were going to do. I still haven't lived that one down...
In my defense, I show SD what we are doing for MY benefit. It helps me put it together.
Other things I constantly remind myself are:
The bottom line is:
- If I can break a new lesson into parts, it is always easier.
- If he doesn't seem to understand, I can try exagerating my cues.
- If his head goes up or he shows any other signs of 'disconnecting', I need to use less pressure. He's happy to try to figure out what I want - but if I put too much pressure on him, I lose him.
- I need to pay attention to how fast I release pressure. Sometimes I get excited when it looks like he's getting it. I need to put his feelings ahead of my need for perfection and give him release asap.
I am the boss. I decide how SD spends every minute of every day. When he eats, when he gets pasture, when he works and when he plays. He depends on me for everything. In return, I expect him to do what I ask. As long as I have his trust, he gives me everything I ask for. If I confuse him, I will lose the trust I've worked hard to get.