Don’t give up.
Release is reward.
The lifelong horse journey is hard. Our egos get in the way and gosh sometimes we just wanna give up.
I’ve spent hours trying to catch one horse. I’ve spent hours trying to cross one stupid ditch/creek/pole or whatever task or purpose may be at hand.
Many people I work with get discouraged because a trainer can do things faster then they can. A trainer can do it faster simply because they have put the time in. It’s not magic, it’s time spent working through the struggles and ups and downs.
I can often do something in 5 minutes now, because I spent days crying, really mad, and so frustrated working through a tough spot in a horse and have and still do feel the way you feel right now. Horses are extremely humbling and challenge us to grow and learn in new ways every day.
When you give up mid task/maneuver/peoject, when you back the pressure off when no traction is being made because you’re frustrated, you rewarded your horse for the behavior they are offering. Most of the time you rewarded them for the exact behavior you are so frustrated with.
In the next moment you ask your horse for the same maneuver or behavior, it will probably take even longer now and be more frustrating. Why is that? All because you released on a ‘I’m giving up moment’ because of your own distraction/frustration with the situation, instead of hanging in there to receive what you’d like the horse to really be doing instead.
Here’s an example:
Your horse is spooking and will not turn left. You pull on the left rein to try to turn left and mid way though you give up and switch to pull on the right rein and turn right instead. You chose to turn right instead because it feels easier and less confrontational. It feels this way because that’s the way your horse is dragging you, spooking to get away from whatever is happening on the left.
What you taught and communicated to your horse is; if I pull on the left rein just ignore me and take me the opposite direction and keep pulling on me until I give up or allow you to change my focus or plan.
Here’s another example, trailering. A horse that doesn’t want to load in the trailer and is backing away, and you quit asking the horse to come forward and give them a break instead when they have left the trailer.
What you’re reinforcing and teaching is leaving the trailer is safer, it is safer to to rely on their own prey animal instincts alone than it is to look to you for safety and answers. You are teaching your horse there is no reason to believe and trust in your leadership, because you also don’t believe and trust yourself enough to follow through and keep the pressure on until your horse can offer you the correct answer you are seeking. If you can’t trust your own leadership and hang in there why should your horse trust you either?
Horses learn from the application and release of pressure. If you’ve softened in the wrong place 20 times you are now going to have to convince you horse that the thing you reinforced was right all those times is actually a lie, the wrong answer. It’s no wonder why you can create more of a battle with your horse when the dynamic of communication and learning is working this way. Try to hang in and wait longer while working through problems for the correct answer you are looking for the first time, and each time and try after that.
The key lesson here is horses take timing, patience, and experience. Try to let go as much of your own ego as possible and work through the problem with the end goal in mind even when it gets frustrating. It’s okay to make mistakes as you’re learning better timing. Keep your attitude and determination in check and keep going until you get what you asked for. Don’t allow frustration to defeat you. Remember you can take as long of a break as you need in the moment that your horse has found that answer you wished for them to seek. It’s ok to end on that note for the day even.