I was reading an article recently by Stacy Westfall titled: How much motivation does your horse need. It caused me to pause in thought about Cookie and other folks who are either far left (Soft hearted) to the far right (Cowboy). Soft hearted meaning: Any pressure greater than body language is not acceptable and Cowboy meaning: The greatest amount of pressure without much release.
There truly is a fine line in finding the balance between these 2 extremes and quite a few folks have a hard time finding it. Now a seasoned trainer who is open to "suggestions" or ideas, perhaps other ways of getting things done can adjust their training methods to each horse with great results. Those are fantastic horse trainers because they "read" the horse instead of just going off half cocked doing it "their" way.
Now far be it for me to say that extreme left or right isn't correct. If it works for you, that's great. It just doesn't work for everybody especially those who are trying their hand at training. It takes a lot of educating one's self in order to train. There's the direct hard work and there's common sense as well as some intuition. I always encourage folks to find a reputable professional trainer to work directly under and not to limit themselves to that one trainer's methods. Watch several different trainers regardless of the discipline. You will get to see first hand how they achieve certain lessons and they should help you understand what to do and what not to do.
For as many horses there are, you might find 2 that are similar in many ways, but I guarantee you're going to find differences in how they learn. Some horses respond from the slightest movement, others make you think it will take a freight train to get them to move their feet. If you ever get the opportunity, watch several different mares with their foals. Watch how the mother makes them move and give them their space. Watch how they discipline them, how they play with them. Watch how the foals respond.
One horse might move just from you moving your body, where as another you could move your body, cluck, kiss, jump up and down, blow an air horn and they won't move their feet for anything. It's up to you to figure out just how much pressure makes your horse move. I would put Cookie in the middle of the scale and I will tell you it really depends on her mood. Some days I can look at her and she'll take off away from me, other days I really have to get after her to move her feet. It can be very frustrating because I question whether she is testing me, lazy or if she's listening and learning. The only way to tell is to try lessons on another day to see if she has learned it or not.
Here's an example: If you can move your horse with your body language: their feet in all directions, disengage their front and hind end and go through walk, trot, canter, your horse is probably on the ball, ready and willing to learn. If you can't get your horse to move their body by moving yours, they're lazy and you'll have to be more assertive/aggressive to get them to move. You might have to pop them on the rear with your whip. You should exercise caution here because if you have a truly lazy horse and you pop them with the whip, they may kick out in your direction. Make sure you're out of reach when you do pop them.
Now some folks may disagree with popping a horse with a whip, however here's the deal with a lazy horse.... their mother probably had to bite them pretty hard in order for them to get out of her space. I don't mean a love bite, I'm talking that mare probably took chunks out of that foal's hide. Does this mean the mare was not a good mother or was mean? No, not at all. It means the foal has a higher tolerance for pain and just didn't grasp the concept before the chunk was taken out.
At some point you might have had a hard headed child in your family. They do things their way, they don't want to listen and they scoff at you when you discipline them. Same type of scenario with the lazy horse. You really had to get after your child in order for them to behave, be it time out or a swat on the tail.
So what category does your horse fall into? One that is rip roaring and ready to go, ready to learn and listen? Do they fall in the middle where they're even keeled most of the time, ready to learn and maybe they have their lazy days but otherwise they'll do what you ask, or do you have that lazy horse that just won't move even if you set a bomb off under them? Once you figure out what type your horse is, it will be easier for you to figure out just how much pressure and patience you're going to need to get your horse to learn whatever it is you're teaching. Figuring this out in the beginning will help tremendously.
I always try to note in these posts to have your Vet check your horse out first to rule out any physical problems that may be creating the behaviors. Physical illnesses can make a horse appear lazy when in fact it hurts to move.
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