Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mindset Evolutions

I would just like to point out that the lack of wildly over-the-top flailing pictures this year is actually not because of a dearth of excellent local photography, but because the FLAIL AND LEAVE NAOW BAI response in Courage is much, much reduced.
this was actually a spook
I know I've said it before, but Courage is a really complicated horse. He takes a thinking ride, every step of every day. I've gone on and on about how the "correct" response to difficult situations is rarely the Courage-approved response.

And this year, I'm finally figuring out how to work with that.
the answer is always a new saddle pad
Courage flailing is Courage screaming that he can't mentally handle what I want. It's not Courage ducking work or Courage being a dick. He has a great work ethic and while he can be an asshole, he's actually pretty sweet most of the time if he isn't on the defensive.

So when Courage tells me I CANT, I've learned to immediately ask, "what can you do instead?"

And mean it.

It's taken a while, but it's working. He's learning to trust that I won't ask for more than he can do and that I'll listen when he says stop. That means that he's more willing to try things because he knows he has an out if he gets overwhelmed.

It's unconventional, but it shouldn't be. It's more like a conversation of equals than a master/beast hierarchy. It certainly wouldn't work if Courage was lazy or mean, but he's not. It also doesn't mean that Courage can say "eh, rather not" to get off the hook. I pay his bills with the expectation that he will step up and do a job an hour a day and he has to deal with that.

It's just that I've recognized that I'm not going to out-muscle, out-fight, or out-last him. The direct methods don't get through to him--they piss him off. Instead of being mad at him for being pissed off at me because I'm being an asshole to him, it makes more sense to just calmly say, "ok, what can you do?"
and/or trample dogs
Right now, that answer is most frequently "walk on the buckle".

Sure, walking on the buckle isn't something that's "hard" or "cool" or "TRAINING" in a typical sense, but it builds his confidence in me and mine in him.

What's more, the flail fits have been primarily prompted by me asking Courage to push from his hind end and carry himself more correctly, which entails moving his back. While he's hardcore struggling with it at the trot, when he tells me that all he can do is walk, he offers a more connected walk that pushes from his hind end and moves his back and then he carries himself more correctly.

It's in there. He's figuring it out. Rage, intensity, and pressure will only set us back. It's amazing what we can do with patience, understanding, and communication.


  1. Fun fact. I walk my horse more than work in any other gait. Because it's easier for him to understand without overloading his brain, mainly. But I've noticed that all that work has lead to a really connected horse in the other gaits, because he's figured out how to engage his back in the walk and that carries over into the other gaits.

    I'm working with a horse right now that has issues grasping things at the walk. We have to trot to do lateral work, for example. Work done at one gait doesn't necessarily transfer to the other gaits. This is weird to me, because with my little horse it does.

    Anyway. Keep on keeping on, with those long rein breaks. :)

    1. Ha! Glad Courage is in good company.

    2. This was very helpful to read, I'm going to add more work at the walk and see what happens :)

  2. So I have the mare version of Courage. Or you have the gelding version of Carmen. :)

    1. I call him the most mare-ish gelding of all time.

  3. Love this! It doesn't have to be conventional to be correct.

  4. My horse can't walk on the buckle after we've trotted or cantered, so you're doing way better than we are in that regard! Each horse is different, and it's great to figure out what it takes to kind of reset their brain so they can work again.

  5. Figuring out how to work with each horse is a long and (sometimes changing) thing. I'm learning that this year :)

  6. I know people in wet climates that get horses fit for their first events in the spring with long long walks in their indoor arenas. Walk is king.

  7. That trust is everything tho. No amount of training matters without it.

  8. I really love how you put this into words. One of the first things I took away from my new instructor is that training is walking the knife edge between pushing ourselves and our horses outside of the comfort zone, but also returning to it. Too much pushing will ruin the relationship, but too little pushing will keep you stagnant in the same place. It can be hard sometimes to feel like we're not progressing as fast as we want to, but sounds like you've identified the correct balance for you and Courage and working at your own pace will get you much farther than pushing to keep up with someone else :) I love reading your blogs! I don't think any of my horses are quite as personable as Courage (although they're all pretty quirky!) and I love the fact that you're not afraid to show both the good and bad sides of your training journey.

  9. IDK Bacardi thinks walking on the buckle is really hard sometimes....


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