Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2014 > Daily Dispatch #150

May 31, 2014: Lessons Learned: Being in Charge Defined

When I hear people talking about “being in charge” when referring to their horses, I see red lights, hear bells and sirens, and feel tension gather in my neck and stomach. Rather than say anything, I beat a hasty retreat, for I cannot abide by such talk. It’s all about dominance, in the sack or in the pen – whips and chains are the tools of choice. The rider/trainer/handler is the boss, and in all situations the horse must do as told.

These individuals probably think similarly when they hear me talk about being “a partner” or “co-learner,” that is an individual who quite often defers to the horses’ wishes. As such, I do body work, and use a wand.

Thirdness: This is a point of view in which both sides agree to come up with a definition that encompasses divergent meanings. In this particular instance, rather than being domineering or subservient to our horses, we instead need to be in synch with them, and them in synch with us.

For me, the rubber hits the road, or in this instance, the hoof hits the ground, in the arena. I am not no longer pushing on definitional boundaries alone, but rather I am working with an instructor who is firm, fair minded, and inspires confidence in my abilities, as well as those of my horse.

I’ve finally come to the realization that Beth isn’t going to ask “Rosey” and me to do anything that we are not yet ready to do. And she’s also not going to let either of us get away with doing something that we think that we can’t do. The end result (already!) is that Rosey and I are better listening to one another out on the trail, which is a really, really big arena.

Last night best illustrates how, in the arena setting, Raudi and I are learning to work in synch. Early on, Rosey was very focused, and very willing to get to work. She ignored the two spirited newcomers, and waited quietly for the lesson to begin. She was, I noted early on, also uncharacteristically energetic – I think because she’s been grazing on high sugar grass and had been given the day off.

Rosey did very well going in a circle, as we did warm up exercises. And when asked, she walked, trotted, and cantered behind the other horses. We then were asked to follow the same horses over a small cavaletti, poles, and cross jumps. Rosey immediately became rushy, and several times moved up on Hunar’s ass. I asked, and Vickie told me to move my hands up onto her mane and by squeezing the reins, let her know that she was to put some distance between her and Hunar.

The above directive was difficult. But we did it. Then, both Beth and Vickie suggested that Rosey go first in the lineup. So we did the above, plus an additional cross jump. Then Beth added a third jump. On the first go around of the three jump sequence, I looked down right as Rosey barreled to a stop in front of it. Beth then said “keep her going.” So I did as she said, and Rosey walked over that jump. Rosey then had to pull herself together and go over jumps two and three.

We did this successfully, and did two more sequences. The final time Rosey said she had enough, by trying to evade the cavalleti, and poles. Rather than freeze and say “enough,” I instead said to Rosey “we are doing this.” Rosey then did as told.

In this lesson (as in all that went before it) there has never been any question as to what the objective is, or how it should be carried out. And every single exercise has been done in a fair and equitable fashion. For instance when jumping, I’m in charge at the beginning. I make sure that she is headed in the right direction, and set myself up to go over the obstacle. Head up, heels down, hands in mane. Then Rosey’s in charge. She assesses the situation, lengthens or shortens her stride, and then takes the jump. This can only happen if we are in synch.

Next: 151. 6/1/14: Planned Puppyhood