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October 24, 2018: Horsey Homeschooling

I am a horse person. I own four Icelandic horses and keep them here at Squalor Holler. I do not have a trainer. I do not have a riding instructor. I do not have a groom. I do not have a pen cleaner. I am it. Pete is also it, but I am more it than he is.

I would very much like to find a riding instructor in our area who has some familiarity or at least interest in Centered Riding. This has not yet materialized. So, as I’ve been doing for the past 14 years, I am continuing to train and ride my own horses.

Two weeks ago I watched Centered Riding Instructor Susan Harris teach. I then took

Alys and Tyra in the playground of higher learning
Alys and Tyra in the playground of higher learning

a lesson with her. And after, I spent two more days with her, talking at length about further lesson-related particulars.

I returned home with renewed energy in terms of educating me and my horses.

Education is a key word here. It is different than training, which is rote, skills driven activities. Educating involves learning. There is a teacher and there is a student. And the roles often change, as they should.

So in the absence of my having a teacher, my horses and I are educating one another. I have now set up a schedule. I ride two and do agility/body work with the other two each day. I’ve tried other ways of going about this – I really like the fact that now, everyone gets riding and ground play time.

And as for the curriculum, it centers on Centered Riding, Intrinzen, TTeam, and Positive Reinforcement training. Round penning is out, as are the use of rope halters and savvy sticks. I am not into compliance; rather, I am into autonomy. As a friend of mine so rightly said, those who rely on these wrong-headed methodologies are attempting to make up for gaps in their own training.

I’m educating my horses in the Playground of Higher Learning. And rather than use a rope halter, I use targets (often supplement container lids), and I often drape a rope inside the leather or nylon halter, this as opposed to clipping it to the halter ring. I refuse to shake the lead line in order to elicit a response. And rather than use one of those dog awful carrot/savvy sticks, I’m using a crop with an attached clicker. I reinforce desired behavior – my focus is on assisting and encouraging the horse in owning its own movement. The clicker is a bridge signal, it means “yes.” The crop is an extension of my arm.

I am now going on shorter rides on Hrimmi and Tyra, and longer rides on Raudi and Tinni, and this is working out quite well. I am assisting the young ones in being more forward and moving with more impulsion, mainly through the use of self-imagery. For instance, I have been doing as Susan suggested, and envisioning our moving down train tracks, this as a way of keeping us from veering off the beaten path. I am doing the same with the elders, but at the same time the focus is equally on conditioning.

It’s dark early now, so I am doing home schooling in the mornings and self-study in the evenings. This takes a tremendous amount of time, but it is worth the time spent doing it. And I think my horses would agree if they could talk.

Next: 298. 10/25/18: Horsey Homeschooling, Continued

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