I'll be the first to admit a mistake, unless I don't know that what I did was a mistake. Horses are mirrors of us. What we bring into the pen with them, is what they will show us. They are also learning every time we are around them. You can easily undo what you worked so hard to achieve and getting that back is not as easy as just going back to what made things work because the wrong thing has been learned over the right thing.
You might be asking, How is that possible? Well, horses are more in tune to us, than we are to them and they don't have the ability to reason things out like we do. Horses learn by pressure and release and verbal commands as well as repetition. The last one really depends on the horse. In other words, if you're training a young horse, less is more. Why? Simply because young horses have a short attention span. If you push them with repetition past what they are to learn, they will actually unlearn it. They become bored and tired easily. So for young horses, less is more. The same is true for some adult horses. If they get it, don't continue to repeat it a million times. Your horse will become bored and do something else that isn't on your training list for the day.
Did you also know your energy level affects your training? If you are jigging around on a caffeine high, chances are your horse will be jigging and dancing around too. If you're dragging your feet, your horse will probably be walking around zombie-like. Finding the balance of energized but relaxed will give you the best training situation. Just remember, whatever you take into that pen, your horse will mirror.
All of this was the case with Cookie this morning, or at least most of it. Cookie readily pointed out my mistake, and we had to work to correct it. After doing it correctly about 3-4 times we took a long break.
I decided to put her splint boots on as well as bell boots on her hind feet. As my sister pointed out during a conversation, "she sounds lazy and spoiled to me". I had to think about that for a moment. In going over our last week's sessions, Cookie has been almost sleepy, dragging her feet all the time, whether in session or not. Food and treats perk her up so I had to admit, my sister was on to something. I also thought about my energy levels during our sessions. I have been sort of just going through the motions, and so was Cookie. She was mirroring me! My sister was right, it made perfect sense.
So I upped my energy level and became alert and more in tune with Cookie. I saw an improvement right away. I began to send her on at the walk. I wanted to give her some time to adjust to having the bell boots on her hind feet before moving her into any faster gait. I have to admit it was quite hilarious to watch her high stepping those hind feet. She walked and I just laughed and laughed. By the time I regained my composure, she had become adjusted and I moved her on into a trot.
We transitioned back and forth from the walk to the trot. I made my requests very clear with a lot of enthusiasm and so did she. We changed direction and completed the off side and began changing direction at both the walk and trot. This time I worked her hard when she pinned her ears and backed up. Eventually she got the picture. If she didn't back up or pin her ears she didn't have to work harder.
When this session was over we reviewed the corrected mistake and it was as if I hadn't made it in the first place. I have said many times, she is One Smart Cookie, and thankfully forgiving. When we finished practicing this a few times, the last thing we work on is standing still in the middle of the work area. I take off one piece of equipment and put it away, then return for the next one. I want her to learn how to ground tie and though I realize she's in her own area and can't really "go anywhere" this is still something she can learn that will be a valuable tool out on the trail.
We do have to realize horses have a mind of their own even if some are predictable to a certain degree. As I was putting away one splint boot, Cookie made her way over to her water trough. lol She wasn't about to wait for me to finish un-tacking her today. I didn't get onto her, I just simply laughed and shook my head. So while she was drinking, I finished taking off one piece of tack at a time finishing with the halter. Then I gave her a good massage. I put her halter away and went to get some treats as well as a hay net.
Cookie checked out her stall to see if there was something to eat in there and heard the plastic wrapper rustle as I was unwrapping her peppermints. I laughed again at just how much energy she had as she came high headed and high stepping across the paddock for her treats, nickering all the way. Yeah, my sister's right.... Cookie is lazy and spoiled. It's all my fault of course, but you know... I don't think that's such a bad thing, considering all the love I get from her.
*Note* I've set up an appointment for Cookie's vaccines next week as well as the trimmer. I have started her back on her wetted Alfalfa cubes and DE for de-worming. I am considering adding shredded beet pulp to her winter diet for extra fat calories. I think it would be good for her, however I'm wondering if she will eat it. I gave her a few home grown beets and she didn't seem to be very interested. I'd hate to buy a huge bag of it only to find she won't eat it.
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