Slowing down to gain confidence

Posted on: Fri, 02/13/2015 - 00:00 By: lisa
Grace & Lisa

Grace is coming along very nicely, She is just about up to weight now thanks to the Pure Feed Company - her feed sponsors. So we now begin the long haul of building muscle and education. Most of the work we have been doing so far is to gain trust so Grace is comfortable with me being around her in preparation for getting on her. 

She can get defensive when she is scared, so we have just been playing around with building confidence, taking small steps so she doesn’t feel too overwhelmed and as a result, feel the need to defend herself. 

Sometimes we need to go really slowly and take more time, such as with saddling. Grace’s first experience with a saddle was way less than pleasurable, sadly no preparation was done, so she became scared, fearful and out of balance, which turned into a rodeo and then she was left mentally in that scared place. 

 So in order for her to cope, I need to slow down to a speed which she can cope with. By going slowly I am also allowing her to become more aware of her own body, She can keep her balance and move in a physically healthy way. This will as create more relaxation mentally.

Horses give us so much information that we miss. They are constantly “talking” to us, tiny little movements in their bodies, where they look, how they breathe etc, it’s all information to us. Sometimes humans get so engrossed in “the task” what ever that might be, that we forget we are having a 'conversation' with a living, thinking, breathing being. Its a conversation with questions and feedback, and if we listen to the little things they tell us, we progress way faster than if we just blunder along with our own intentions. If I go too fast early on, I risk losing her confidence again.

Slowly day by day Grace has been gaining confidence in me, however still she sometimes runs through the “I"m going to be scared, and I will run over you if you push me” default setting! She does this through fear, not because she is trying to hurt or be “disrespectful" towards me.  

Yesterday though she rewarded my slow efforts by allowing me to sit on her without erupting like a volcano. Now I say sat on - we didn’t move, just stood there, so it may well be a different story when we do move! Never the less it was a huge step up in her confidence.

It was a big change in her mentally to just stand there too! She sighed, licked and chewed, looked around so she saw me out of each eye, lowered her head and blew out a big relaxing snort, It was good to finally feel muscles let down and soften! It’s a big ask to get a scared horse to just stand and chill !

Later that day I ponied her out from Pepper our quarter horse mare, Grace carried a bareback pad with her, actually she was awesome both horses were, until we turned a corner and saw the local nursery out walking with a zillion under 5’s all wearing fluorescent tabards, shouting ‘Horseys” and running towards us with arms flailing. At this point both horses grew to about 22 hands high, with giraffe necks, and doing passage better than any grand prix horse!  Quick change of plan at a flat out long trot saved us from child massacre I think!

Grace came back as chilled out as ever while Pepper was still on a high snorting like a dragon! Grace had a good day and felt like a winner. The really cool thing is when they feel like this on the inside it shows on the outside too. She was happy and so was I.

Other news:

On my travels, I am starting to see a real interest in hackamores, I’ve been riding our horses for years in them, train all our young horses in them and I love them! 

I am finding both english and western riders are wanting to learn this lovely art. So we have decided to host a one day workshop, If you’ve ever fancied having a go bitless, or you have just started out riding in the hackamore but not sure how to progress then this workshop is for you. Dates and details will be posted on my Facebook page as well as the website very soon. But please do message me to register your interest.

I have also been incorporating the garrocha pole in my clinics as well as my own training and I love it! This traditional spanish cattle working tool is an incredibly valuable addition to your training program. We are using it do develop the rider’s feel, create lightness on correct, round circles as well as teaching the rider to go one handed. Again, we have decided to do a one day workshop for beginners, numbers will be limited on this one however, simply due to the time needed for individuals.

Keep checking the website and Facebook pages for more details, but again please register your interest for this workshop.