Wednesday, February 18, 2015

18th February, 2015 Softly, Softly

I've been contemplating the content of this blog for a little while now. It's been bothering me that whilst the notes I send to my clients cover how-to-do, it's always really difficult to put into exact words, how -to-be, and it is the combination of the two that really makes a relationship with a horse. Whilst I can prescribe fairly readily the mechanics of do this two, three and then do that, two, three, it can never be as black and white as all that especially when you come across different people, different horses on different days in different circumstances.

I've been asked whether I am going to write another book. My view is that there's very little left to say about horses and horsemanship that hasn't already been said but once again there is a sharp divide between those books that tell you what to do and those that tell you how to be. Oh to be able to combine the two.

Today's pony, Ruby, was a case in point. A bright, healthy, characterful New Forest pony with some thoughts of her own about how life is meant to be, she belongs to Rachel, a lady that I have worked with before a few years ago when I was running a clinic. Rachel has done all of her homework with her pony - plenty of groundwork before getting her started under saddle.

Rachel has a thorough understanding of IH and similar techniques and Ruby is riding out well. The only place where she's having any problems is on the ground and there's certainly nothing too serious to worry about. There's just an unwillingness to accept direction expressed through the odd offer to bite, swishing of the tail or her ears going back. In this situation it is not enough to say do A, B and C, because Ruby will do A, B, and C, it's just that she does them with a degree of irritation. The objective here is to get her to do A, B and C willingly, with good grace, and perhaps even with a smile on her face, in other words, softly.

Tail swish

Rushing to get rid of the irritation
The key is not to reward or release for the try or for the action, but to reward or release for the attitude, the lack of negative emotions that go with it. We started off by looking for a cue that wasn't so irritating in the first place - in her case a flat touch with a hand seemed to be more acceptable to her than a pointed finger or what could have been a tap from a schooling whip.

Having given her a deep flat rub all the way along her body, I finally asked for her to move her bottom across.

I also imagine the left back leg going through and in front of the right

Much softer expression and attitude