Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lather, Rinse, Repeat


How Many Times Does it Take?

There's something about horse training that's counter-intuitive. I hear the same things over and over again stated similarly from different trainers, but it still takes me forever to learn. Yes, I'm slow. Stop your snickering.

Clinton says, "Be black and white, no fifty shades of gray". Okay, I'm paraphrasing. Matt Sheridan says "Know where the holes in your horse are". I've heard Ian Francis say, "Have a picture in your mind of what you want and keep asking the horse for that until get that picture." Most recently Jonathan Field said to me, "When your horse gives you what you want, leave him alone."

The last couple of weeks I've been working three horses in the morning. Frosty, our neighbor's 10 year old mare who is a very sensitive girl. Dusty, my wife's horse who is 18 and a bit out of condition from an easy winter, and my mare Jessie who is a bit in between the temperament of the first two horses. Working three horses back-to-back is a great learning tool. I've just recently re-acquired access to the paddock behind our house to work the horses. We do not have a round pen. Everything is done on a lead line.

Okay, you are probably wondering what all the bitching and moaning at the top of the page was all about. I've been trying to get Dusty to be more responsive when picking up the canter. Ranae tells me -and it's easy to see- that she really has to work to get and keep him moving. It gets to the point sometimes that her leg cramps up trying to keep him in the canter.

I'm working on the ground. The first week, I Take it easy on him. He's nearing twenty. I don't want to break him. The second week I think he can give a bit more. He has been so sluggish it takes a bunch to get him going. It's work. But it's just these kind of hurdles that move the learning process forward. Finally, after the second or third session Dusty gets it. When I point, and kiss he goes.

And that's another thing. I learned from Clinton it's Point, Cluck, then Spank. Somehow this order starts drifting all over the place. It becomes Cluck, Point, Spank then Spank, Cluck, Point maybe Spank. Spank for no apparent reason, Point for no apparent reason. I'm all over the board.

This is why it's good for a trainer to have a little OCD in him. Get the order, do the thing, and consistently do the thing. Really, that's what makes a good trainer. Someone who gives the cues to the horse, in a way he can understand, the same way...over and over again.

I remember one clinic I was covering for the Whoa Podcast. I asked the clinician how much information he thought the students could absorb in a three-day clinic. His answer was 15% the first time around, 50% the second time around, and if they took it a third time, 80%. That's a fairly bleak assessment. Those clinics are not cheap. But, that's the way we learn....I guess. Do you have similar struggles picking up these concepts? It's one of the reasons I love the DUH dvd's I can go back an refer to them from time-to-time. Do you have those A-HA! moments when something just clicks? I would love to hear about your challenges if you are a recreational horseman. (Well. even if you are not.)