, that video was great! Looks super hard.
Originally Posted by DanteDressageNerd View Post
I think a lot of people would wake up when they realize a horse is not a machine where you just put in the right code and suddenly it's perfect or when they realize a rider/handler is not God who has all the power in the world to make a horse what they want it to be. Horses have their own minds and ways of being, I think a lot of people are blind and arrogant thinking they can control a horse and all problems are rider/handler error. I hear that, I'm like clearly that person has no experience. Sorry slight rant but one pet peeve of mine is people who think a horse is like a machine where a rider or handler just puts in the perfect coding sequence and like magic the horse is perfect and they can mold a horse to be whatever they want, it just doesnt work like that.
It would be nice if that were the case! No, actually it wouldn't, because then horses would just be machines. We'd miss out on all the nuances of their individual personalities.
I've been realizing lately that something has changed with Hero and I, in the past several weeks. It's a little bit difficult to categorize, but I think we're going to make better progress now. You might say he's shown me everything he's got, and it's made me feel that I have an understanding of his reactions.
It's hard to explain, but I've been through this with all three of my horses. You don't know at first the extent of all their reactions. To be safe, you don't push at certain times because you don't want to go too far. There's always this nagging insecurity because you're not sure how far this horse can go. For example, if Hero reared and I scared him, would he flip over? If he got really upset when another horse left him behind, would he explode or fall down? Etc.
I've been riding Hero for about a year and a half, so it's almost surprising to notice this change. But even though it's taken a very long time, I think he is finally starting to really listen to me. It reminds me of my Papillon, which people say they are great dogs but terrible puppies. I remember saying Gilligan this and Gilligan that and his eyes were just glazed and inattentive. A day or two after his first birthday, I said "Gilligan" and he looked into my eyes and focused like "Yes? What did you want?" Before that it was all noise to him.
Hero must have tried to bite (or bite) me a couple hundred times at least, and received a reprimand. Whatever I did seemed ineffective. Except now he doesn't try to bite me. Sometimes if he's really upset he'll flap his lips at me or move his mouth toward me, and then if I wave my hand he'll overreact and be very contrite. He's stopped threatening to kick me. He's letting me groom him and come in close and put my hand over his head and nose, and sometimes he looks in my eye and it's a very sweet look.
People say the horse has to respect you or you need to dominate the horse. I was thinking today that it's more like the folklore about naming, or knowing the true name of something. In one fiction book I read, if you knew the true name of something you had power over it, and that was because you understood all the properties of whatever it was; if it was a person, you understood their emotions and motivations and all about them. Even though it's been quite a long process, I'm beginning to understand more of the bigger picture of Hero.
If he gets really upset, he (like most horses) wants to trust that I will be bigger than that. Bigger than his bucking or panicking or rearing. He wants me to tell him what is up, and then to take comfort from that. That is really hard to do, even if you're extremely confident and secure and think you're willing to risk whatever. There's still a small part of you that is waiting for the really bad thing to happen.
But the past several weeks, I've seen how if I am truly "above" what is happening, it makes a big difference. For example, on the beach the other day something was really scary and Hero got really tight, scrambly and started leaping around under me. I just said "It's fine," whopped him one smack with the crop, and he was literally calm within 5 seconds and back into a nice walk. But I actually felt deep down that it was
fine, and he knew that. It's not as simple as "confidence," but you actually have to know the horse well enough to get there.
Yesterday I was pushing him to do very adult horse things in the field, riding in small circles with some lateral movement, fast transitions, and backing. A loud car went by while his brain was engaged, and so he felt overwhelmed and reared. I leaned forward, looked him in the eye, and very slowly bopped him on the cheek, which he thought being whapped on the face was a severe reprimand. Five seconds later he was back into the work, focusing and calm. I felt comfortable pushing him back up to see if he would reach that point again, but he didn't. He didn't want to get face bopped again.
And I don't think it's what I'm doing, but what is different is that he is thinking about how what he is doing is creating a response from me, so he is not just reacting and thinking I am just flying along with him, but instead has gained the focus to relate my reaction to his actions. Like most horses, he does want to please, so he is beginning to pull himself out of his emotions and changing behaviors based on my feedback. As long as I was even a little fazed by his behaviors, he was not able to join me in calm analytical space. Suddenly, I'm seeing his eye, and his thoughts, and he's processing things along with me.
I really believe it's not just about being a strong leader, or getting a horse's respect. You have to know the horse, and sometimes the horse has to know your name too. Trust can take a very long time. And even if they trust you, they might know that you can't quite trust their responses at times, and that you're being wary and safe. Which you absolutely have to do so there's just no short cut. That's why I believe a partnership can need to develop over a long time with a horse, especially if the horse has had previous experiences with other riders and trainers where they've been let down.
Something about Hero's "true name" is that he is a bit like that hysterical woman in the old movies. It's so politically incorrect now, but they used to say "Get a hold of yourself!" and slap someone across the face. Honestly, it sounds silly but Hero is like that. He panics, I say "Get a hold of yourself!" with a smack, and then he does.