My 23-year-old daughter went to a teacher's seminar last week. She teaches Grade 3 Math in a Title 1 school and is grateful for any guidance she can find in getting and keeping the attention of her easily distracted students.
"The instructor was so interesting," she shared with me yesterday. "He told us to refer to math problems as 'math mysteries', and that would make the kids want to solve them. And it really works!"
When dealing with your horse, how much more would you be interested in solving a mystery rather than a problem? Anything we need to work on with our animal is indeed a mystery because each horse is unique and we need to figure each one out on its own. We need to discover and solve what mental, and sometimes physical, barriers they are dealing with. It may be easier to see finding the solution as a quest of discovery instead of an arduous search for a fix to a problem.
A few weeks ago I was trying to solve the problem -- I mean the mystery -- of getting my reluctant horse to pick up the speed of his walk. I sighed in frustration to my instructor, "I'm not a horse trainer."
"Anyone who gets on a horse is a trainer," she corrected. "You are teaching him to respond to you. Whether you are teaching him rightly or wrongly is your responsibility."
She urged me to get his attention by walking him in figure 8's, backing him up, and doing reverses. My horse caught on quickly that a correct walking pace was less effort than these alternatives and he learned to respond correctly to my cue to pick it up. I just needed to get his undivided attention.
Mystery solved! Of course, there will be many more mysteries to come and I look forward to their resolutions, as my horse and I continue to learn about each other.
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