Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Student, My Teacher

He was my first green horse. Pretty forgiving of my mistakes - and I'm sure I made a lot of them. When I bought him he could walk, trot, canter, steer, whoa, and stand for mounting - provided I didn't touch his butt when swinging my leg over. I did find that one out the hard way. He started bucking before my butt hit the saddle and I came off a few hops later. I was more careful when I mounted up after catching him again, but within a few days I had arranged for a helper to hold him still while I crawled all over his back and dragged my feet and legs all over his sides. After that the odd bump was of no concern to either of us - except that I always apologized for my clumsiness, and I always teach the babies I start that they must allow that kind of bumping without fuss.

He frustrated me many times, but it was all a part of the learning process. Young, green horses don't move in a straight line either in real life or along the training level. They wobble, the backslide, they leap forward, they forget everything they ever knew. Through it all he taught me that if I focused on the end result, on what I wanted to happen right now we could get there.

He showed me how horses tend to lose their finer control over their bodies when those bodies go through a growth spurt, and that he needed my understanding, encouragement and support to help him work out how everything worked together again. The up and down path of training helped me develop the mindset that allows me to think of and try various approaches to break down activities for a green horse to find understanding and success. I learned that sometimes we teach a response that is unexpected. Somewhere along the way my horse decided that "Good boy!" meant he'd done what was asked and so he could stop doing whatever it was. Most often on the longe after I asked him to "Trot up!" (meaning push more and go forward) he would trot on and I would approve with a "Good boy!" and then immediately have to get on his case again as he dropped back into his lazy trot.

Even as I taught him, trained him, he was teaching me. Those lessons are an integral part of my horse sense now. One lesson in particular carried over into the rest of my life - a story that deserves a post of it's own.

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