Friday, June 29, 2012

It Takes Time and Patience

"Treats Please"
Recently, I was going through my blog archives to see exactly when I started riding Dusty.  I was curious to see how long it had taken us to come as far as we have.  What prompted my investigation was the perfect ride we had last weekend.  Dusty has been having problems at the mounting block and although she’s progressing she hadn’t exactly passed with flying colors until last Sunday.  In my opinion, trying something different helped her and me to overcome this obstacle. 

Instead of using the built-in mounting block in the corner of the arena, which I feel is awkward because it’s too high (four steps) for a 15.1 horse and has me doing a balancing act above her back, we changed our routine.  With that block, if she moves forward, back or to the side I have to keep repositioning her so I can sort of drop down onto her back like you see them doing in the bull-riding chutes.  Using a stirrup to get on is out of the question because it sometimes lays right on the platform or my foot will get wedged between the mounting block and her belly if she moves closer to the block.  So instead, I used the three-step plastic mounting block and positioned it in the center of the arena.  Dusty stood like a statue, I slid my foot into the stirrup, hoisted myself up and over, and she never moved an inch even after I was in the saddle.  Whether this is because of my confidence in doing something the way I’d always done it, or her being more comfortable with the whole situation, or a combination of both, I’ll take it.

We then proceeded to have the best ride I can remember in a long time.  She wasn’t trotting at Mach 10, but was tracking up and listening to my every cue.  Both directions had us perfectly in sync with one another.  I could have ridden all day like that, but since she’s still on the rehabilitation road to recovery for her leg injury we quit on a high note.

This ride is what prompted me to look up when I began riding Dusty after my knee surgery.  It surprised me that it was in June 2009 because I thought it was earlier. So in actuality she hasn’t been in training with me all that long, especially since she’s had so much time off for laminitis and hind leg injuries.  Which probably adds up to about a year on and off.  It does make me think of the old adage “slow and steady wins the race.”  There are many riders and trainers out there who adhere to the philosophy of “do it now” or “get it done” but I’m glad that’s not my philosophy.  I say it takes as long as it takes to do it right and teach the horse one step at a time before moving on to the next level.  Dusty and I spent a lot of time simply walking to get her speed, balance and steering where it should be before going on to trot.  We had just started her canter lessons when she injured herself so when she is ready we will take up where we left off but not until she is ready.

What’s your philosophy on training a basically green horse or retraining a horse that was brought along too quickly?

Until next time

Quote for Today
There are only two emotions that belong in the saddle; one is a sense of humor and the other is patience.
    - John Lyons


  1. What a nice post about how great it is to be in synch with your horse!!Isn't that just the best feeling ever?? I agree with you about taking your time with the horse to train them new things. I've never been a professional trainer, but when I "train" Buckshot we go slow, and he shows progress. With most things. I never actually got him to successfully do the "bow" motion. :) Sometimes he may forget a step but he does eventually remember it. So being eternally patient is very important. Good post! I'm glad you solved the mounting issue and tried a new solution. It always helps when we try to be resourceful and creative with problems.

  2. AnonymousJune 29, 2012

    Taking time to get the foundation right before moving on to the next thing is very important, I think, whether the horse has never learned the things you are asking before or has learned them in ways that lead to tension and bracing. Softness comes first, all the time. Not being impatient with the rate of progress often leads to better progress and perhaps even quicker progress than forcing the pace. But it's important to ask, too, and not to avoid the issues that trouble the horse - with a horse with prior bad training this can be critical.

  3. Hooray for awesome rides! You have come a long way with her.

    If you were standing above her while mounting, that could easily have been a separate issue. The ramp we use in therapeutic riding puts the rider above the horse's head, which is very scary for some horses.

    My philosophy is a lot like yours. Only go as fast as the horse requires, but not so slow that he gets bored or loses attention. I like to try and only focus on one thing at a time, especially for a young horse or a horse being retrained. And the reward has to be immediate so the horse knows when he has answered the request. If he knows there is always an answer and reward/release to follow, the learning process is predictable, safe, and fun for horse and human.

    I feel that it is also very important to picture your horse exactly as you want him or her to be!

  4. I envy your accomplishments. I'm all for having the horse understand what is being asked. Patience and softness bring great rewards.

  5. Going slow and waiting for each other to understand should be written on all of our foreheads. Carving your own path for you and Dusty is serving you both well and we can all learn from paying attention!

  6. Green horses actually move along a lot faster than retraining projects. Either way, you do have to build the fitness--not too hard with TB's-but getting rid of bad habits or bad training takes more time than starting off with a clean slate.

    Either way, I would tailor the training speed and time to each individual horse. Some catch on more quickly than others and temperamentally accept the training better too.

    No hard and fast rules, except that in general, good training takes time.

  7. Sounds like you're making great progress, especially given the time off. I agree with you about taking the time needed. Rushing will lead to problems. SO glad that you had such a wonderful ride.

  8. "I say it takes as long as it takes to do it right and teach the horse one step at a time before moving on to the next level."

    I completely agree with you. And I also think sometimes it's just fine not to worry about moving to the next level even if things are working well on another level. Just be with your horse and be happy with any and all successes ;)

    I didn't realize it had been at least a year before you had ridden after your knee injury. It had also been a year for me after my own knee injury/surgery before I rode again...and then again another year after I was kicked in my face.

    Sometimes I kick myself for not getting back in the saddle sooner after my injuries, but it was what I needed to heal both emotionally as well as physically.


  9. So glad you are posting again!!

    More and more, my philosophy focuses in on making every moment with my horses a conversation that allows the horse to have a voice in what we do together.

    When I do that whatever we do ends up being rich and valuable.

    I think I'm getting with horses to the same place I got to with being an English major in my undergrad years - weary of critiquing and looking at books as something to write papers about. And the same place I got to as a therapist - witnessing the journey for each client instead of looking at them through the lens of theories and diagnoses.

    Now I'm living with and riding my horses with the idea that everything we do should be pleasurable for both of us. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, when I stopped trying to "achieve" something the rides got so much more beautiful.

    It sounds to me like you are at that place with Dusty - she is lucky to have found you. :)

  10. What a nice post! I love thinking about you and Dusty having a fabulous time together.

    Thanks for encouraging reminder about patience and timetables. I needed it! ;)

  11. I think time... and patience, and lots of communication. I don't have a lot of experience. Just lots of review and three days on and a day off for rest, perhaps is a great schedule ... one I try to do.

  12. It sounds like you and Dusty are really in harmony. I have found over the years that some horses want to progress faster than others and both ways are fine. The main thing is to pay attention to what the horse is telling you. Some horses get bored with too much repetitive, slow work-others thrive on going slow and get tense and anxious when asked to do faster, more ambitious work. So they all progress differently. And with a horse slowly coming back from rehab, the focus HAS to be on keeping the horse sound. Yay for both you and Dusty--what a great job you two are doing together.

  13. I'm with you and Dusty, it takes the time it takes. I'm a big believer in taking it slow and only working on what the horse is ready for. As Katie likes to say, "the fast way is the slow way and the slow way is the fast way."

  14. Fab to have another post already :D

    So glad to hear the progress you're making with Dusty; is weird but I also thought you'd been working with her for longer. With that in mind, you must feel so pleased with what you both have achieved together! Looking forward to hearing more.


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