Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flexibility in Training Procedures - A Horse Named Mouse

I was called some weeks ago to have at a look at a little horse named Mouse who, according to the horse's owner, was quite a handful. The horse's owner was pretty saavy about horses in general and actually I was quite impressed at his horse knowledge. It seemed that he'd been doing many things right with his horse but he was still having difficulty with Mouse's attitude and rebelliousness. Mostly, while under saddle, Mouse would turn and spin and either head back to the corral or just dump the rider. When I arrived Mouse had dumped quite a few riders so the owner was concerned. 

We should realize right off the bat that horses are not horses are not horses. This is to say that although there are general truths regarding how we approach a horse in training horses have different personalities and different psychological orientations. Much of these different personalities and psychological orientations have to do with the horses experiences up until the time of training plus horses have varied breeding propensities and leanings. Keeping these things in mind our training methods and techniques must be modified to address personality and psychological differences; if we are going to be successful.

Often times it is not a simple task to understand how a horse has developed psychologically or, for that matter, to get a clear handle on the personality of the horse however, we do have a window into the horse's overall demeanor simply by observing the behavior. Actually, when we stand in front of a horse, one thing we do have going for us is that horses do not attempt to lie to us; they wear who they are pretty much on their shirt sleeve. It is the trainer's task to modify his/her training techniques to best fit the behavior the horse standing in front of him/her. If this is not done, and a trainer simply uses the same techniques on every horse, the process becomes dishonest and ends-up being unsuccessful.

Timing and feel are absolute necessities when training a horse. Good horse trainers are masters at timing and feel. Without these two elements the process is awkward and clumsy to say the least and the horse usually gets more confused as time goes on. I'm not really sure if these two elements can be learned; my feeling is that one either has them or one does not. Rather like the propensity to be athletic - some people are more inclined towards what it takes to be an athlete and some are not. I know that true horse training is like a dance. Each movement and gesture while around the horse is carefully expidited yet it comes from a place inside the trainer that simply knows the steps to the dance. And as the horse does one thing the masterful trainer intuitively adapts his steps in order to request certain behavior or movements from the horse. It all happens so quickly and so fluidly and as a result the horse steps forward into his trainng. Often times, while observing a master in training it appears quite uneventful, as though there is really almost nothing happening, and this is because of the soft and artful manner in which the trainer moves and dialogues with the horse. I refer to this being in the groove with the horse.

Often times horses are blamed for unsuccessful training outcomes. In my opinion, this lack of success stems from the trainer's inability or unwillingness to adjust his or her training methods to fit the personality and psychological orientation of the horse. This is to say that the trainer is simply not in the groove with the horse. It is not necessarily a simple task I have to say but it is the only honest way to proceed. And it is the only way to truly honor and respect the horse and his individuality.

Thanks for listening!

No comments: