The (minor) Attitude Adjustment
First, the good news! Odin has definitely found his confidence. Today, that translated to him doing a bit of testing during the first part of the training session, which quickly turned into a gentle attitude adjustment.
Horses can be quickly labeled as “bad” because they don’t immediately rush to do what we want them to do. But ask yourself, why would a horse WANT to overcome their natural instincts to work with a bipedal predator? Typically, they aren’t being “bad,” just showing natural behaviors. There are many ways to overcome this, but the best involves making the horse see that:
a.) it is in their best interest to work with you, and
b.) that working together can be rewarding and comforting for them.
Basically, we are just building on our other lessons here. You want to be a strong independent pony that don’t need no trainer? Sorry buddy, you get to work a bit harder (think moving quicker and further away). Very important! The point isn’t to run the horse until they are exhausted and give in, or to punish them! You are just linking concepts in their mind to show them that trusting and being attentive to the handler is the path of least resistance.
How do I accomplish that?
In the video below you will see that Odin begins tense and unwilling to look to Sarah for guidance. There was a lot of activity in the background, including a new mare and foal. (Check out our Instagram account for pics of the baby!) His body language tells us that he isn’t interested in paying attention or working – he has his own agenda for the day. Sarah patiently lets him run, changing directions randomly. Here she is looking for him to face toward her when he changes direction, and ultimately to come towards her. As soon as he does those things, the pressure is off and he can relax. When he leaves or spins away, the pressure escalates a bit, making him move a bit quicker and turn more often. After about 10 minutes of silliness, Odin finally decided that he remembered his earlier lessons and was ready to go to school, even with all the activity.
This video is a great example of how to calmly and patiently work with a horse that is feeling a bit rebellious. Whether they are just feeling their oats or there are major distractions in the environment, these are great lessons to apply to get your horse’s focus back on you. Stay tuned for next week, when we profile the rest of the training session… to see Odin transform from wild teenager to a pony able to be mounted bareback with little fuss! What a good boy!