ABC Always Be Conscious about Your Horse Training
Was it the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” where the line “Always be closing.” came into being? It means always be aware of your goal. For a car salesman, you want the sale. For a horse owner, it means every interaction with your horse is a training experience. While we may want the warm, fuzzy relationship with our horse, from the horse’s perspective, HE is always looking for his place in the pecking order. Don’t worry, there will be times when that warm, fuzzy relationship can be enjoyed, but be aware training opportunities are everywhere.
If You Are Not Training Him – He Is Training You
Each time you move around your horse, you are training him or he is training you. One of the key times this happens is at feeding time. At our house, our horses are behind our home and they see me come out in the morning to feed. I noticed my mare was getting demanding. She wanted to be fed first. She would kinda kick up and run around her pen throwing a temper tantrum.
At first, I thought this was cute, “Oh, look at her acting all spoiled.” I was new to learning about horsemanship and didn’t realize that feeding her in response to the tantrum was not only encouraging this behavior, I was asking for it to escalate.
Now, I don’t think it matters what kind of animal you are, human, horse or armadillo, it’s not a good idea to wake up in the morning and go ape$&!^ running around. Your muscles are tight and cold. Sure enough, my mare injured herself throwing a tantrum and needed rest before I could ride her again. This led to her being even more spoiled.
Changing the Attitude
Like most problems, it’s better not to let them get started than to have to fix them later. Now, you’ll have to decide how safe your horse is around feeding time, but here is how I solved my problem.
When my mare was healed, I started with the evening feeding. I do a lot of groundwork with my mare and use a stick and string during my training. I took a little feed into the center of her pen and then began to work her. At first, she was only focused on the feed. Once I got her moving around, I began to change direction. When she was focused on me and the directions I was giving, I yielded her hindquarters and let her rest. If she made a move to the center for the feed, I sent her off again at a trot.
It didn’t take her long to realize who was in charge of the food. When she stood quietly looking at me and not moving to the feed, I called her to the center to eat. A few days of this and she began to realize, even when I was throwing the feed over the panels, that she was only going to get it when she stood quietly.
Remember, you may let your guard down and not think that your actions or movements are training, but your horse is ALWAYS aware of his environment. That’s how he has been able to survive for 55 million years.