This question came from yesterdays blog comments;

Question: You said, ‘The scared horse needs to be allowed to cycle through work cycles and then emotional cycles’. I have a ‘scared’ one who has obviously been pressured and confused in the past. Can you explain what you mean by that first sentence (of yours)?

Imagine that you are scared. Your body is tense, your uptight, holding your breath, jump at every movement. Your co-workers find you on edge, your boss walking in makes your blood pressure rise…out of fear and anxiety. You go home and it is hard to drop that feeling…being ‘uptight’ is becoming the norm. It is getting harder to find places where you laugh. The snowball is growing, gaining speed, heading the wrong direction.

Xavier Meal RTTH photo

Emotional control cycle at Road to the Horse

Now, imagine all of that except that when you go home you go out for a jog. You have decided to run your first 5K next spring. Unexpectedly though…you have found another WONDERFUL side effect….six weeks into Couch to 5K you realized that when you physically push yourself; lungs burning, muscles aching….strangely it feels better. You realize that you haven’t taken a breath this ‘deep’ in sooooo long. You actually begin to crave deep breathing….because you found it in exercise. Now, tonight at home you won’t be as tense….and maybe you will eventually look for a new job.

Many scared horses need the opportunity to move, run, buck….it does two things. It increases the chance that they will discover that they can take a ‘deep’ breath, and it allows them choices. They know (we are still talking round pen here) that they have a choice to leave. They need to know that they can leave and breath before they can stay and breath.

Then when they are in an emotional cycle, one that is not physically demanding but is emotionally hard (stand while I rub you with the stick and string, etc) they are still breathing hard and remembering the choices. Remember, this breathing hard is not about getting them tired; it is about showing them they can stand there without holding their breath. Done right they only need a few sessions of physically demanding work to catch onto this. If you find yourself needing to lunge them hard, let me throw out a number-say for more than 8-10 sessions (things vary from horse to horse but this gives you an idea that I’m not talking months) then your probably not making the point clear and may need to get some help from a pro.

Some people over-do the exercise cycles and over-look the emotional.

Other people consider the emotions and feel unfair asking the horse for hard physical work.

Finding the balance between them….is magical.

Follow up: In Episode 13 of Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac, I demonstrate and talk about physical and emotional training cycles.

If you haven’t seen Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac, where Stacy is documenting her colt starting on YouTube, follow this link and check it out!