Don't make it a competition

I was working with a rather stubborn pony today (I know this is a human quality and the horse isn't actually stubborn but just has not learned the appropriate behavior). I wanted him to yield his forequarter and move out on a circle. He did not want that. He threw his head, turned his head to avoid looking at me, crowded me or just ignored the increasing pressure. Not long ago this would have frustrated me. But I came across two important concepts that did have a huge impact on my capability to not get frustrated, mad or scared.


1. I recently watched a trailerloading session with Linda Parelli. It took her close to 3 (!) hours to get the horse in. There were moments when I became frustrated just by watching thinking "come on, just make him go in." Asked afterwards how she managed to be so patient she became very emotional and answered something like "Because I love the horse". That blew my mind. Do not get me wrong here. We probably all love horses. But what she ment was that she always put his needs first. If he didn't load, well, maybe he would the next day. Her focus was not on getting him in to show the crowd watching what a great horse trainer she was. Her focus was on having him so confident that he could do what was asked of him. She protected his dignity.  
2. Ray Hunt once said that when we want our horse to do something and the horse thinks about that differently that we humans become victims of our pride and tend to turn it into a competition. And that the horse might easily win that fight. 

Applied to my pony session: I was not personally offended when the pony refused to move. I knew he was trying to figure out what he was supposed to do as he licked and chewed a lot. It was just hard for him so I broke it down to little steps - turning the head in the right direction, shifting his weight, a little movement of his foot in the right direction. Sure I had to correct him a lot. But he needed guidance and I offered it to him. I didn't turn in into a competition and I refused to be pressured by the clock. And constantly through the process, and that's the most important thing, I told him (actually I spoke in words) that he was a good horse. I did not want to reward him by speaking but it prevented me from thinking "come on you stupid tank, move your feet". These thoughts and words kept my attitude friendly and my heart open. For me this is the key to avoid aggression in the horse. He feels that it is no fight you seek but communication. 



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