As in my lessons, it is easy to get sidetracked in these blogs. Yesterday, I had originally intended to use my video clip with Scott Hassler to stress how valuable it is to videotape lessons, shows, and practice rides. It is difficult to override my admiration for trainers I deeply respect. Now that I got that over with there is another theme to explore in the same clip. If you didn’t see the clip, it is located at the bottom of the last post.
A common theme, especially with adult amateur riders, is how to handle a situation when a horse gets tense or spooks. It is not uncommon for a student to give me a list of the items or situations that cause their horse to spook. It is sometimes difficult for me to get the student to override their concern for these particular scenarios, and instead focus on the behaviour the horse is exhibiting when it encounters the fearful object or situation. An example would be, fear of a mounting block in the corner of the arena. The horse shies and runs sideways each time it approaches the mounting block. Here it comes….”He’s afraid of the dang mounting block!”, followed by kicking and fussing.
The mounting block, in this case, is immaterial…it could be a dog, a bucket, a plant, anything… the focus should be the loss of rhythm, and the falling in on the inside leg. This is something that can be corrected. You cannot predict every object you may come across in your horse’s life and train him not to be afraid of it. You can instead, train him to move correctly on your aids, and soon his trust will build when he realizes that your decisions have kept him safe. Having a conversation with your trainer about why he doesn’t like mounting blocks, hats, etc. is nice, but not conducive to fixing the problem.
This is more aptly stated by Scott, in the video when an unseen person drops some folding chairs while I am cantering Lucy. There is a sudden “Bang” and Lucy immediately tenses up (she doesn’t look that tense but she felt it!) He calmly reassures me “There are no noises…just her body- if her body gets nervous, ride the body”. He offers the disclaimer “This sounds so easy from the ground.” But this is what we must aspire to. Ignoring the stimulus, controlling our adrenalin and riding the horse’s body. If the horse’s body is stiff (from fear) ride it the way you would ride a stiff horse. Don’t add in the element of panic. Nobody’s saying it will be easy. It will take time, but the first step is visualizing. Then practicing……then one day….Bang!!!!…Nothing.