... but rather what you didn't do.
Time and again, we find ourselves having the same problem with our horses. We have worked repeatedly on a particular skill only to be faced with the identical issue once more. We try to resolve the situation using tools we already know but to no avail; the same result is obtained, and it isn't the one we are looking for.
We blame ourselves.
We blame the horse.
We try harder.
We get emotional. Surely, the horse would do what you want if he wanted to please... right?
Why is he not responding?
And then, we do it all over again. We use the same aids, go through the same exercises, approach the problem from the same angle(s).
Need a Change-Up?
To modify the situation, we need to alter our perspective. The unfortunate part is that often, the change that is needed is not easily accessible or acquired. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot adjust ourselves in the manner required by the horse, simply due to inexperience or lack of skill.
But that does not alter the fact that the horse needs something we might not be able to give him.
The Essential Instructor
There are so many possible ways to approach a riding problem. Unless we have the opportunity to ride many horses under good instruction for many years, we may not be aware of the approach that is needed for the particular situation our horse is facing. Finding an accurate solution may in fact be impossible for us to reach on your own, especially if the problem is something we have not experienced to date.
Enter the essential instructor: there simply is no other way.
What our horse might need is a completely new perspective. Perhaps we have to learn something new that we would never be able to dream about without the help of an informed instructor.
Practice and Time
Don't kid yourself - new riding skills take time to develop. The necessary change-up may require numerous repetitions until we become proficient and effective enough to be able to change our horse's performance. We need to be content knowing that we are on the right path and that walking the path may take longer than we originally anticipated.
Changing the Rules... Again
Finally, we need to recognize that in changing our own responses to the problem, we are also expecting the horse to change his behavior. Not only will we need to master the new skill, but we also must de-program our horse's responses that WE blueprinted into him, and replace them with new ones. Although we usually find horses to be extraordinarily forgiving and patient, it will nevertheless take time to explain the new rules clearly enough to make changes in his responses.
Listen to Horses
We will know our goals are being achieved by being sensitive to our horse's reactions. If we uncover more tension, insecurity, lamenesses, tail swishing and/or pinned ears, we know we are not quite on the path we are seeking. In contrast, if our horse gives us snorts, bolder, more confident forward strides, strength and roundness and/or soft expressive eyes and ears, we know we are on the right track.
So the next time you get stuck in a rut and don't know what to do, think of what you didn't do, and give that a try!
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