Time Well Spent, by Doug Lindgren
Yesterday our friend and neighbor hosted a clinic that was focused on trail challenges. The obstacles were the same as you might see at competitive trail events and trail classes at your typical horse show. The participants were able to take their horses and mules through the series of obstacles to test their level of training and ability to manage the different challenges. All-in-all everyone learned a lot and the riders didn’t do bad, either. That was a joke”¦
Our friend, Angie, used two of her horses at the clinic. She told me about the experience she had with each of them. I was able to observe some of the clinic, too, and it was no surprise to me each horse handled the obstacles very differently. Both of these horses have had a lot of riding, both of them have been on the trail quite a bit and one has done a lot of gaming, poles, barrels, etc.
Angie started out with Sunny, a five year old gelding that she uses mostly for trail riding. Sunny approached the obstacles quietly, with confidence, and did really well. Each challenge was handled without much effort. Sunny is really laid back and has a very calm demeanor and is generally unflappable. Watching Sunny move from one obstacle to the next was uneventful and that’s a good thing. His confidence showed and his quiet, easy-going style came through along with the reflection of a confident, relaxed rider. When watching Angie ride Sunny, it was easy to tell she was comfortable and confident. Once again, the horse was a reflection of the rider and vice versa.
Next, Angie took her prize winning barrel horse to the arena to give her a chance to shine. Well, same rider, very different horse. This time, Angie brought a horse with a very different personality to the obstacle course. There’s a reason she uses Daisy as her barrel horse. Daisy is a quick, snappy little spitfire that is always ready to GO. Her personality is easy to see and one has no doubt that she can get busy at the drop of a hat. In Daisy’s mind the only time she needs to side pass is to have somewhere to go before she launches herself towards the poles she’s going to bend. And why would she want to drag a bag full of cans around behind her if she wasn’t going to get somewhere fast? Handling the challenges for Daisy were just that, CHALLENGES. No longer did we see the quiet, comfortable, confident Angie riding her quiet, comfortable, confident mount. She was on a horse of a different color. (Sunny is a palomino and Daisy is a sorrel”¦ another bad joke”¦.) What I mean is that the two horses are made of very different fabric and given the same circumstances Angie had two very different outcomes. When riding Daisy into the obstacles it was easy to see both horse and rider were challenged and were uneasy about managing the course. Daisy certainly is able to do everything Sunny can do but it’s just not as comfortable and easy for her. She isn’t unflappable and gets worried much easier than Sunny and that’s ok. Angie just had to adjust her methods and recognize that she has two very different horses. She knows she has to approach each horse with different expectations and she has to build her relationship with each horse differently, as well.
Horses are like kids. They are all wired differently and as long as we recognize that we can do just fine. As long as we don’t try to put each horse or kid into the same mold everyone is better for it. It’s our job to be flexible, willing, and able to adjust to the differences among our students. It’s our responsibility to figure out what it takes to train and teach our pupils. The better we are at figuring out the answers our students are searching for, and the better we are at communicating our desired outcome, the better teachers we become.
Angie and the other participants had different horses engaged in the clinic. All of them had poles to bend, plastic tarps to cross, and mail boxes to open. All of them asked their horses to move through the course at their own pace. All of them used a little different approach to conquer the challenges that lay ahead of them. All of them gained confidence in their horses. All of them went home knowing they had a better horse and that they were a better horseperson for participating. Everyone was better off because they had tried something new and different. They managed to get to a point of training that was good for all of the varied personalities in the arena. Because every horse and rider is different, a variety of approaches were used to find the end game. You know what, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
When I’m asked how I start a colt or work to adjust an undesired behavior I can always answer the question in generalities. The details are not that easy because IT DEPENDS. It depends on the horse because every horse is different and every situation is different. The truth is, given the same situation on a different day; your horse’s reaction may be totally different. So, you have to always be aware of how the day is going for you and your horse and be ready to make adjustments. Neither I nor anyone else can give you a cut and dried answer to any of the questions you may have because IT DEPENDS.
You can never know what to expect in any given situation because you are dealing with a living, breathing, thinking animal. Your horse is in his world and is constantly focused on his survival and then you show up. In his mind he’s fine as long as something isn’t trying to eat him and he has plenty to eat himself.
It shouldn’t be any surprise to you that your horse has questions in his mind when you ask him to step over an obstacle or walk through a gauntlet of noodles. What does any of that stuff have to do with his survival or his ability to fill his tummy??? Why should he become submissive to you and allow you to be his leader? Why? Because you have spent the time to build a relationship with him and you depend on each other to accomplish certain objectives, all-be-it mastering obstacles in a trail challenge or catching a calf running down the arena.
You figure out what it takes to accomplish your objective. The efficiency you have in reaching your objective depends on you, your horse, and your ability to ADJUST to each situation. You both get there because you are living, breathing, thinking animals, one and the same.
“It’ll Be Fine” when you realize that the answer to your questions about training your horse is IT DEPENDS”¦
Welcome to Hay Creek Ranch, SD!
We invite you to visit Hay Creek Ranch our secluded campground surrounded by the Black Hills National Forest on three sides. It’s a peaceful haven for horse lovers, bicyclists, hikers, or anyone who just wants to get away from the rat race.
Hay Creek Ranch offers cabins with kitchenettes and full bathrooms, tent sites, shower houses with bathrooms, RV sites and a dump station. We also have spacious shaded corrals for your horses or mules.
With thousands of acres of Black Hills National Forest around Hay Creek Ranch there is no need to load and haul horses to ride. The hundreds of miles of trails right outside the gate include everything from Forest Service roads to elk and deer trails. There is a great variety of terrain to fit everyone’s level of experience.
Our goal is to provide you, your family, or group with a vacation that will send you home wishing every day could be a “Hay Creek Ranch” day!
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