The following is Marije’s comment to an earlier post This Weeks Training. and my response. I was inspired by the comment and wanted to respond more fully by making this post.
“How is Dawn Treader doing today? I find it really interesting to read about her. I recognize the distractions; I have the same problem with my own horse on trail rides. I think they have to learn to focus on the positive (which is: the person leading them) rather than on the negative. It’s somewhere in the Bible that evil is to be conquered by good instead of by evil, which i always read as: focus on the good things, and you will conquer evil. It seems to me that this is what these horses need to learn.” Marije
The Bible verse is Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Horses have no guile (or evil). The behaviors we might label as bad is just a horse acting out her natural prey animal heritage with fight or flight. Up to now, I never considered this Bible verse as it relates to horses. Nevertheless I have learned to apply the principle not to the horse but to myself as I relate to the horse. I banish fear and frustration, which are my temptations when the horse seems to act unreasonable. My frustration, fear and ensuing control tactics only exacerbate the horse’s natural fight or flight instincts, giving the horse added fuel to his (by my standard) bad behavior. Therefore I do my best not to allow the horse’s unwanted behavior to alter my course. I do not look at the horse’s scary object or allow my peace to be disturbed by the horse’s antics. It takes a will to remain unaffected. However, I become proactive about expressing the “good” by praising the horse and stroking her neck, telling her there is nothing to worry about. The horse seems to take on my peace and seems to consider, ‘my human is unafraid, so why am I?’ As a side note: it takes a solid join-up before the horse will trust us enough to be affected by our ‘good’ emotions but they are always affected by our ‘evil’ emotions. JR
“I have recently started to dismount and walk beside my horse on little parts of our trail ride. She calms down a lot and it seems easier for her to focus on me when i walk besides her. It is my way of giving her some relief and rest between the moments of riding that she experiences as pressure. After a moment of release it is easier for her to bear the pressure when i mount again. My goal is to slowly build up the pressure by extending the distance between where i walk and where she walks. She already responded positively to that. I can walk behind her shoulder now and still determine the speed we walk in and the moment we stop. She perfectly responds to me. Meanwhile, she feels more responsible when she walks up ahead, but the fact she can see me besides her seems te give her confidence. Her confidence has been growing a lot since i started doing this. From here on, I want to increase the riding and decrease the walking. If that is too big a step, the people of the Monty Roberts School have advised me to go long-lining outside as an ‘in-between’ step.” Marije
I do not allow myself to be affected and therefore reward my horse’s bad behavior so I do not get off. However, as you mention as Monty Robert’s school suggests, sometimes I get off and lounge the horse to bring her attention from the object of trouble back to me. JR
“I wonder what you think of this method, because I think you’re not doing more riding than walking. I’m reading Klaus Hempfling and am surprised about how many horses he says are not suitable for (intensive) riding. I think my horse is like the ‘sergeant’ of Klaus Hempfling’s horse characters:” Marije
It is a fascinating topic. As with people, horse’s various temperaments and physical traits can be categorized. At the same time every horse is a unique individual. All character traits have an up side and down side. For instance, the ultra hot-blooded, sensitive horse (like Dawn Treader), while exasperating at times, can become an ultra sensitive, telepathic companion reading my mind before I can deliver the cue. I have experienced it before with sensitive horses but not with Dawn Treader as yet. Of course some horses are not built mentally or physically for certain vocations. So if you want to enter a certain genre of horsemanship it would makes sense to find a horse that fits the job description or else find a genre that fits your horse’s character.
The character of some horses and the character of some people are incompatible. A certain ‘evil’ trait in the person can draw out the fight or flight traits in the horse to the point where the relationship is hazardous to both horse and human, usually the horse. The best solution would be for the human to take a careful, introspective look at himself and remove the ‘evil’ lurking inside, but this is not how it usually plays out. Too bad for the horse; usually he takes the blame. Too bad for the human; he missed an opportunity to learn something about himself and get rid of the real ‘evil’. JR
“Meanwhile, I think in our case the problem might be that the horse has never learned to be independent, since she hasn’t been away from her mother ever. A trail ride with another horse up ahead is never a problem. Anyway, I would enjoy keeping on following Dawn Treader’s training if possible!” Marije
I have not been riding Dawn Treader lately, being too busy with other horses. I hope to resume training her this fall. I will continue to log our progress on this blog and look forward to more of your comments, Marije. JR