“Dogs, in my opinion, don’t care about the past or the future; they focus on the now.” Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer
I have watched a lot of Cesar’s shows, and during one stables visit to help with a cattle dog he said that he just worked with dogs and that horses were beyond his expertise. He went on to explain that since dogs are predators and horses are prey animals, they come from a completely different background and what works with one doesn’t always work with the other. However, both animals share the gift of living in the now.
Which is what I needed to be reminded of during my last arena session. I was trotting alongside my friend Mary when my horse began to accelerate into an unrequested canter.
“The ground’s too muddy for cantering today,” Mary called to me.
“I know that but Sportie doesn’t seem to,” I called, half-halting until he slowed to a walk.
“You need to keep his attention so that he listens better,” she encouraged. “Try trotting a few steps then ask for a whoa, then repeat.”
Unfortunately Sportie has a good internal clock and knew my allotted time for riding was coming to a close, so he wasn’t in the mood for an impromptu lesson. After a few of those drills he refused to whoa on command and instead he accelerated, accompanied with a protesting buck. I did a one rein stop, a little frustrated with my inability to get Sportie to listen to me and a little scared for my safety.
“He’s just feeling himself,” Mary said. “You haven’t ridden at all this week because of the rain so he's testing you. It was just a little buck, if he really wanted to get you off he could have. It’s over. Forget about it and end on a positive note. Cesar Millan says animals live in the present. That buck never happened.”
So I closed my eyes and figuratively wiped my memory slate clean, took a deep breath to calm myself, and again asked for a short trot then whoa. This time Sportie figured out the sooner he complied the sooner we would finish. He proved himself right. We both accomplished what we wanted to in that moment, then enjoyed a long moment of back scratches after untacking.
All was well because it ended well.