Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunday Musings - what works?

Hi there from sunny Montreal! I've been enjoying the opportunity to have a good play with the camera, what do you reckon? I do love a pretty little macro shot. 

So, something caught my eye on my facebook feed this morning whilst I was having a quick catch up. I dabble in a bit of Parelli natural horsemanship stuff with Rio, because I want to improve our relationship on the ground. I don't take it too seriously - I just use the bits that make sense to me, and ignore the bits I don't like (I will never whack a metal clip into his head... That's just not how we roll, OK?) and someone had posted this article. Obviously I had a little read.

Now, Rio usually works in a regular halter or his leather one. He will have a rope halter on the Play Days, and that is about it. This isn't so much an issue for us. At home, we work on his manners without utilising pressure and release with these more "pressure pointed" aids. Slobber straps - we don't use them. I ride with regular rubber reins, and we have been working for some time now on understanding each other and developing his contact in a much quieter way. We are past fighting over it, and for the most part, he offers a contact and supples quite nicely (when I ask properly...)

The carrot stick I have found to be of some use. On the ground it has proved invaluable on a couple of occasions, and despite being unwieldy and really quite heavy to carry regularly, I would always now keep one handy. In the saddle has proved a little less successful - perhaps we haven't played enough of the friendly game with it in that respect, but I am happy to use a schooling whip or regular crop to achieve the same end, with far less angst or resistance. 

As for treats, these don't get offered regularly. At the first couple of Play Days I ensured I got a big tub of treats ready for training and rewarding, because this was how I was being taught. What I actually ended up with was a horse that wanted to be in my space all of the time because that was where he got the treats. I don't want a horse that mugs me for nibbles. Since ditching the treats and opting for scratches/cuddles/grass munching time as a reward, I have had a much more responsive horse to work with. I'm lucky in this sense that Rio is such a people person, because he's usually more than happy for you to give him a good rub on his neck as a reward. 

The idea of "just get off" is a tempting one. I have however learned that unless you follow something through, it's likely you will find a brick wall develops. Once this happens, not only have you got to knock that wall down to achieve what you're after, but you've also got to build the bridge! Surely we all understand this one - aren't we always told when we're learning to ride, if you fall off the horse, you get straight back on? Why should it be any different if your horse is finding something a little difficult? Three strides of controlled canter and asking him back to trot is a better start than avoiding canter altogether (for example). That is something to build on. If you don't take the plunge, how do you build the foundation?

It's interesting to get a full picture of what goes on when we are training our equine friends, as we always seem to get so focused on what we want to achieve, that sometimes we overlook the side effects of what we are trying to do (and probably not quite getting right!) It's so important to take a step back every once in a while to appreciate the small things and the impact they can have. You can create something wonderful if you just take the time and make the effort.

That said, I do think that anybody going into horse ownership thinking they will automatically have a best friend for life should really reconsider if owning said horse is right for them at that time. I love Rio to bits, but I'm under no illusion that 10 months is an infinitely small time in the grand scheme of things. We have a lot of experiences to have together, many scary things to work through, and lots to develop in our relationship. I just hope that in 10 years time we can be in as strong a place as Sarah and Franks are together. Fingers crossed, we will have experienced half of what they have too - I'll be a very happy lady if we do!

Sweetie Pie - my dad's girlfriend's cat in Montreal!
Enough rambling from me, please feel free to share your views on training your horse (natural horsemanship or otherwise!) Are there any things you feel work particularly well for you and your horse, or indeed anything that you avoid like the plague?

Ride / play safe