Preface: Over the years I've been fortunate to have had a few horses who, from the get go, were almost easy -- if there is such a thing. Those no-stress personalities surely made them easy to love & a pleasure to ride, but they also came with appropriately high dollar price tags.I have felt equally lucky (though maybe not so much at the time) to have had a couple of cayuses who did not leap to bond with me, took a ton more work than I had imagined that they would, tested me sorely before trusting & made me question myself to the bone... because (once we got in sync) they proved to be among the rare gems who are worth more than their weights in gold. Connecting on a deeper level with those horses has been so rewarding & it spurred me on to require more of myself as a rider for the sake of those mounts.
It is my opinion that most new horse/rider partnerships connect & develop over time; if you want a true partner up under your butt, that relationship (like any other) takes time & effort to build before it can ever flourish!This post was & is intended as encouragement & support for anyone who may find their journey to partnership with a new horse is something 'less than easy'.
Sometimes the higher the fruit, the sweeter the juice.Thank you for reading.
Getting a new horse is like starting a new romantic relationship: you have to go in with an open heart but you cannot be foolish or you are in for a big hurt. An open heart holds hands gently & starts out with a kiss on the cheek; a foolish heart gives out his passwords, his credit card, & the keys to his apartment before you know his middle name.
Horses are not fools. Horses are hardwired, first & foremost, to protect themselves. A new human is an unknown; understandably, some of the horse's defenses are going to go up.
|Let's start out 'Slow & steady. Cool & Calm."|
Once you've taken the time to really learn something about your new horse, from your new horse, only then can you begin to form your relationship - gently, as a potter moulds clay into pots. There is no rushing this process, because as soon as you are too rough or move too fast, the clay may refuse your touch & collapse on the wheel. Similarly, as soon as your approach becomes rough or impatient, the horse may refuse your leadership & collapse in his own way (it might be balking, or bucking, or a mental shut down).
If you have caused your horse to collapse away from you in some way, how you handle yourself & how you re-address the problem is critical. If you throw your hands in the air & walk away, the relationship is in jeopardy due entirely to your temper & your lack of commitment to your goal.
If you must walk away to re-center yourself -- do that, because it is crucial to the training process to maintain a positive energy. Get yourself together as quickly as you can & return to your horse with a smile on your face, because you don't want your horse to linger on the memory of your bad behaviour.
If you will keep your emotions in check & redirect your energy & thoughts to go back 1 or 2 steps from before the problem arose, you can re-instill calm in your horse through the calm & the confidence that you radiate out to him & even a problem session can end on a positive note.
Do your best to leave every interaction with your new horse on a positive note. This is not always easy, because sometimes he's going to act like a butthead in spite of the $$ you've spent on him & the time you've invested in him & the effort it is taking at that very moment to LOVE him even though you don't currently LIKE him too much; but it's important enough to reiterate that any relationship worth having is likely going to be some work.
Sometimes you might find yourself in a little over your head - that's not a bad thing because it allows you the opportunity to learn more than what you already knew. Consult with other horse people whose judgement you trust & whom you respect. Sometimes what you really need is someone to shake up your perspective & help get you back into a positive frame of mind & moving in a productive direction.
A word to the wise, when it comes to 1000lbs of horseflesh, if you ARE in over your head - get good experienced professional help SOONER rather than later. Recognizing that you need help can save you a lot of trouble. More importantly, for your horse, you getting that help could mean the difference between a harmonious riding partnership in the future, or your poor horse someday riding in a packed, stuffy truck on the way to slaughter.
If you find yourself discouraged & feeling as though the horse is trying your patience, remind yourself that horses don't really have the capacity to plan out being a pain in the ass. It is far more likely that he either does not understand what you want from him, or that you have not inspired enough trust for him to freely give what you are asking.
From the viewpoint of the horse,
Why should he trust you before you repeatedly demonstrate to him that you deserve his trust?
How can he surrender his perfectly natural fearful instincts until you have repeatedly demonstrated that you will calmly & consistently work through his mistrust &/or misbehaviour?
How can you expect him to trust your judgement in his moments of doubt until he believes that you are a capable, wise, & fair leader?
|"I want to understand you. You are safe with me. I will never hurt you".|
The Breakthrough, the tipping point, the real reward... is when the horse finally starts to trust & bond, understands your ask, & begins to give freely what is asked of it.
Then is when they can begin to understand the thinking process of their new horse.
Then is when they will begin to feel that tenuous trust their new horse is putting in them.
Then is when they will begin to sense that a genuine partnership is forming.
Then is when they must continue to build on that tentative trust by leading successfully.
Then is when they will be able to begin to truly appreciate their new horse as a unique, & possibly quirky, but absolute individual.
Never doubt that there will be moments of backsliding (because there will be). You CAN work through them.
In the face of all that WORK...
MAGIC can truly begin to happen.