I particularly love those ‘light bulb’ moments during a lesson or clinic. The horses have them all the time and you can almost SEE them thinking, ‘oh is that all you want me to do, I can do that, it’s easy’ or ‘oh wow, you mean ALL the pressure will go away if I simply relax? Too easy’.
Of course the owners experience the same moments of clarity and it often comes from simply changing what you are looking at or concentrating on.
One, of many, examples from this past week was a horse falling out through the shoulder while long-reining. The owner was getting quite frustrated as the horse was ‘pulling’ towards one particular area of the arena (the gate, I know you aren’t surprised by that) and over-bending his neck to the inside. She was holding a lot of pressure on the reins but for about one third of the circle the horse was bent left but travelling to the right.
We changed the owner’s focus from concentrating on what the horse was doing ‘wrong’ to what the horse ‘wasn’t doing’ that she was asking it to do. This in turn moved her attention from the whole horse to one part of the horse – the part she was trying to move.
- What the horse was doing wrong – falling out
- What the horse was not doing – stepping left with the left front leg
Now, no longer looking at the whole horse, the situation was massively simplified and once she was focused on cueing the horse to step left, releasing pressure when the horse did step to the left, the horse immediately stopped falling out of the circle and began to follow his nose in exactly the way she wanted.
By looking at the situation from a different perspective, i.e. what am I missing rather than what is the horse doing wrong, we were able to work with the horse (providing it with a easy opportunity to get things right and get a release of pressure) rather than against it (and resort to correction where pressure was being maintained for long periods).