We are always training the horse both physically and emotionally. Physical training is easy to measure; the horse stops better, spins faster or steers easier. Emotional training isn’t always as easy to see. A horse that is very stressed may show signs of stress through physical movements; pawing, prancing or sweating or they may withdraw and get a glazed over look.
In my travels I have observed two common mistakes:
- that professional trainers will more often make the mistake of overlooking the horses emotions and focus purely on the physical responses, i.e. better stops or steering
- that the non professional may go to the other extreme and worry more about whether the horse likes them (emotional) and be more likely to overlook the horse being pushy etc.
I think that there needs to be a balance between both. The horse needs to physically respect our space and listen to us but we also need to take into account what the horse is emotionally going through.
Just like building a relationship with your kids, spouse or a friend takes time, teaching a horse emotional lessons takes time. Often this ‘time’ is less structured time than traditional training although the main difference is getting the horse to think outside the box. This could mean that I add unusual obstacles to my ‘normal’ routine, or it could be that I take my work out onto the trail.
When I was training Jac, he was more like a blank slate. He had very little training but he also had few preconceived ideas on how things were going to go. With Al, and most older horses, this was not the case. Al has a history of training and he has learned that one system. There are pieces of that system that worked well and will carry over into Al’s next career, but there are also parts where he could improve.
Keep in mind that my main goal during this trail ride was to show Al that every trailer ride doesn’t end in hard work. I noticed the first time that I trailered Al that he was very nervous. He loaded and unloaded fine or better than fine. He jumped on, never pawed, and was respectful…but he was very nervous. Physically that meant he was shaking and sweating. I don’t need to know Al’s history to make a plan. Many times people will get hung up on wanting to know exactly what caused this type of reaction. In reality many things could have caused this, maybe he has always been nervous in the trailer or there could have been some kind of incident or many more ideas we could think up. The great news is that I don’t need to know the history to be able to make a plan for the future. If Al says he is nervous then it is my job to figure out how to make him more comfortable. Try to picture ‘more comfortable.’
As soon as I said more comfortable, did your mind conger up images of extra bedding, fans and padding on the halter? Typically when people think about making something ‘more comfortable’ they immediately think about physical comfort. The discomfort Al was having was emotional, not physical, and I know this because I hauled him with other horses. I know they were physically dry and comfortable. What Al needed was emotional training.
I hauled Al on multiple occasions and repeated this same routine; short trailer ride (15-20 mins), unload, saddle, pony, unsaddle, load, return home. On each trip Al was less nervous in the trailer and by the time I returned him to New Vocations he was not showing any signs of emotional stress when hauled.
The other effect of hauling Al was that I was able to give him lots of new things to think about including trails, crossing logs, and playing in a stream. This is some of my favorite training to do with horses.
Can you see how keeping the core lesson the same while varying the routine adds strength to the training?
We visited a tea shop that had some ‘conversation starters‘ laying on the table. They were full of questions like:
If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
Would you rather live for a week in the past or the future?
I’m going to spare you from ALL of my answers but I will answer the question, “If money were no object, what kind of party would you throw and where?”
I would throw a party in a very large, old castle. The theme would be a masquerade ball set in medieval times. All guest would be dressed up in period clothing and there would be rooms full of period clothing that you could go change into.
A feast would be going on the whole time, tables and tables of food.
Mini’s would be pulling carts with appetizers on them around the yard. There would be jousting and carriage rides, archery and sword fighting….just keep going back to that clothing room for the appropriate attire.
A ball room would be filled with music and dancing (dancing lessons in another room to the side, lol).
Oh, and like any good medieval party it would last for almost a week.
* * *
It was very entertaining to sit around for an hour as a family to ask and answer these questions. We all learned things about each other that surprised us and they really were great conversation starters.
How would you answer one of these question? All of my answers revolve around horses…what does that say about me?!
As my career has grown over the years the challenges have changed. There were difficulties in the beginning as we were newly married, starting a new business and having kids…all at the same time. I get tired just remembering it. There have been challenges of almost every size, shape and color imaginable; tractor break downs, lack of money, disappointed customers, spreader break downs, shortage of money, injuries to horses and humans…the list could go on and on.
Thankfully as our business has grown, as well as our ability to budget and plan much of this has improved. We can now predict the future in many cases…tires without tread blow more often…so we plan better.
But one area has gotten worse.
I can see potential in horses better. And it makes it hard.
While this should be an asset, and it is for the most part, it is also a difficulty. I am addicted to horses and I like to train them. I can see the potential in a mini and enjoy that process as much as the potential in a reining horse. Some people would say, “Train the reiner, it will be worth more in the end” but I see the horse as an individual more strongly than I do as a profit margin. If buying and selling horses was my business I would have gone broke years ago as I value a good home higher than the highest bidder.
While I have had to pass on the opportunity to own and/or train several horse in the months after selling our house the reality is that there will never be enough time for me to train all the horses I wish I could. Instead I must have faith that there are other good people out there who will offer these horses opportunity.
To learn more about New Vocations Race Horse Adoption you can visit them at www.horseadoption.com
I don’t have my own barn at the moment but I have still been enjoying the fall changes at friends places.
If you decorate post photos please!
“What’s a day like living in your rv with Jesse, and the kids? What do u eat, do make your own food? Like crockpot meals? What are some of your recipes? (u look great by the way) Do u workout? u play games? And the horses do they get to play?” -Paula D.
Living in the motor home isn’t much different than living in our house was, just a lot more mobile. The difficulty, and fun at times, is that we don’t really have typical days. In the last week for example I had two days that my kids had standardized testing, I rode horses, met with my web designer, shopped at Congress, attended phone conferences and one face to face conference in Indiana, got health papers for the horses, and drove to PA. Add blogging, email and other ‘office work’ to all these days.
A closer look at today: wake at 6 am, work online, pack up motor home and horses (everyone fed themselves breakfast), on the road by 9 am, business call on hands free device while driving, lunch in the motor home (PB&J for me, chicken patties for everyone else…it was fend for yourself again), kids did school work while we drove, on road until 6 pm, settle horses into horse hotel, cooked dinner (tacos, rice, three bean chili…yep, leftovers for tomorrow), computer work (it is 9:50 right now)…
We don’t eat much fast food anymore, we have traveled for so many years that even the boys don’t want it anymore. We like nice restaurants but we eat at ‘home’ more because it saves money, is healthier, and often is better. I like cooking with leftovers as part of the plan. I cook runners waffles from scratch and freeze them for quick and healthy breakfast.
Most of my exercise is horse related but I try to do yoga a couple times a week, I would like to do more but…
I don’t really enjoy many games, I’m not sure why but I never have. I did get bronchitis one winter and was restricted to inside only. I conquered the video game ‘Pikman’ at all levels. That was years ago and I haven’t played anything since. Everyone else here like to play games:)
Our horses get out to play a lot unless we are at a show where they don’t have the facilities. We left Congress October 12th and our horses have only been ridden a few times and have spent most of their time turned out. We are headed to Maine right now where they will stay mostly in my moms pasture.
It is 10:40 pm now and are parked outside the horse motel we stopped at. Tomorrow we will drive the rest of the way to Maine. Right now I need to brush my teeth, do some yoga stretches and go to bed. Thanks for the questions…keep them coming!