Native American, really? What tribe do you affiliate yourself to?
I am Navajo; my wife is Spokane. I mention my wife's tribe as well because we tend to follow matriarchal lines and so I consider myself Spokane as well.
Horses can be read if we take the time to do so, a shift in weight, ears, nostrils, even the eyes will tell you much, and let's not forget the tail...lord do I know when my Quarter Horse gelding Terry is mad....
*nods* My wife has a two year old gelding from the rez that is a registered Native American Quarter Horse.
This place you work at, will they help you go further with your riding skills and ability since you are, as you say, a clean slate with no misconceptions or bad habits? Do you know if you will pursue english or western riding?
I think they would help, though frankly, they are about to let me break horses for them at my current stage of ignorance after seeing me on the unbroken horse yesterday. I'm not foolish enough to take that job btw, but that they would offer it gives me some pause.
They do give lessons here, and one can learn quite a bit from observation. I understand that it is not the same as doing but I don't believe that I miss much. i.e. Different riders during lessons have extremely different postures, use wildly different leg pressures, watching where they rest their hands and feet and being able to see the horses reactions to each of these different riders is very instructive - especially because there is a limited number of lesson horses so to see the same horse react differently to the same verbal and physical cues because of the unconscious cues the rider is giving them has taught me quite a bit already.
Oh - and most of the riding is Western around here, though there are two English riders that take lessons here.
As for coming here, no offense, but half the people who post here have no earthly clue, are young, new owners, etc. and I would rather be working with a competent horse trainer and talk to them about my misgivings than say oh that sounds like sage or sound advice, do it and really muck up my horse or myself or both.
You raise a very good point and I have an answer but will ask your indulgence because it is from my scripture. I can't think of a way to answer honestly without quoting it...
Believe nothing, O monks, merely because you have been told it or because it is traditional, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings, that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.
There is nothing wrong with asking, but how will you know what to throw out with the bath water and what to keep and learn if you have no real basis to compare it to?
I'll make mistakes. Of that there is no doubt. But I am hopeful that the implementation of the above quote will help me to minimize those errors. Ask questions and then examine the answer carefully. Insure that it is respectful to the animal, based on the little that I have learned. That it complements his or her nature, is kind, etc.
And you do know that horses do need structure, a good strong leader and discipline at times don't you? It doesn't mean beat them or abuse them, but there are times a smack is the best method to get across to a large animal you mean business and to pay attention.
I watch them in the herds, sometimes entering and interacting with them. I have found, for instance, that one way to address a challenge is to make eye contact and keep it. A horse might try to intimidate me but do not like to be stared at and will try to look away, turn to kick me, etc. By continuing to face him or her and turning with the horse so that it can't turn away (and be prepared to duck a sudden bite or head butt) they'll eventually drop their head and become docile. Or maybe I've just been lucky so far. ;)
It's a bit more dangerous for me this way no doubt, but it minimizes the use of force. Thanks so much for your response! I'm running in and reading them between mucking stalls...only fourteen more to go!