How to not be perfect and still get the job done - Mastery Horsemanship
How to not be perfect and still get the job done

How to not be perfect and still get the job done

November 02, 2021 12 Comments

Written by Don Jessop

Post a video on YouTube and sit back and watch the critics. Does that sound like a safe thing to do? Arm chair critics are a dime a dozen. They are willing to tell you everything you do wrong without actually engaging in conversation. It's the very reason I talk about being careful when you post videos. see link. Regardless, if you have something positive to share, you should still share it. I believe our world needs as much optimistic positive energy as it can get right now. Occasionally I do read the comments from my video posts and if I see a pattern in the comments it gives me a whole new topic. Hence this topic: "How to not be perfect and still get the job done." 

So many people believe you have to be perfect. They say things like: "Don't teach the wrong thing by letting go at the wrong time. Don't do it like that, do it like this instead. There is only one right way to do anything." Comments like that led me to this article. You can be imperfect, even backward in your logic, and still get the job done.

Did you know you can teach a horse to go forward by pulling on the reins? Did you know you can teach a horse to go backward by kicking his belly? The logic is backward but if you want to teach it that way, guess what...? The horse can learn it that way. Did you know you can let go at the wrong time and still get the job done just by persisting through time to a different result? Horses are trial and error participants. They are looking for the releases and the rewards. If you release and reward at the wrong time once, then the right time once, then the wrong time again, then the right time again and again, believe it or not, he'll start looking for averages. No doubt he'll be confused with less logical techniques but in time, you'll see, he'll still get what you want because it feels best to do what you want in spite of the confusion. And if you persist to the end result you want, even if you did it all backward, your horse will shrug his shoulders and think "okay, I guess this is what she wanted."

The point is, people want rules, they want to be told how to do something and they don't tend to like variations or exceptions to rules. But I'm here to say you can throw away that basic instinct and make your own rules. Did you know that my wife and I as elite horse trainers don't always do the same things? Did you know that when I ride her horse I don't like how it feels and when she rides my horse she doesn't like how it feels? What does that mean? Is one of us doing it wrong? NO! We both offer different feel, different signals, different support mechanisms. The relationship you develop with your horse might always be your own. I believe you should be okay with that. If someone tells you you're doing it wrong, don't believe them. You're just doing it your way, or the way you learned. Are there other ways. YES! There are always other ways.

Some ways make more sense to the horse, sometimes, but not always. Horsemanship, at it's core, is an art! It's two species dancing together. Militant ideology works great for military activities. But we don't use horses for battle anymore. We have horses for partnerships, harmony, peace, and play. I believe we shouldn't be so hard on each other when we see someone do something differently. Look at it like art.

If something is being done in a cruel or unsafe manner, maybe that's when you should pipe up and say something. Otherwise, I believe we should celebrate the different art we see around us. Enjoy the unique conversations between two individuals. 

When a student asks me if there is a better way to achieve a certain task, I can certainly show a dozen different techniques. One will work best for the horse and one for the human, based on coordination, skill, and so on. But make no mistake, any technique, even if it doesn't make sense, will work, if you persist. The moral of the story here is to take some pressure off you. There are three "p" words that we use in training. Patience, Persistence, and Position. Those are the basics of teaching a horse. Be patience, be persistence, and reward the position you're looking for. No where in that equation is the word "perfect." Stop trying to be perfect by knowing the perfect path forward. Relax, enjoy, be artistic, try things, then try different ways to do the same things, have fun! Horsemanship is a wonderful adventure, don't allow people, including yourself, to rob you of the adventure by trying to tell you that you have to be perfect. 

As always, I encourage you to comment below. Share your thoughts, it helps me see I'm reaching the finer points of progress in our horse industry. Thanks for reading.

 



12 Responses

Linda
Linda

November 22, 2021

Hi Don,
I haven’t read your posts for a while and am trying to catch up. We are again in Arizona for the winter with the two horses left in our herd… Nick and Dusty Rose. Bijou passed in Montana on a clear and beautiful day in May after his last trip home from Arizona. He had just had his 34th birthday and was acting like a two-year-old on his return home. On that day, he flew back to our maker and never looked back.

When I first started in natural horsemanship, I did want to be perfect for my horse. The journey has been filled with ups, downs, ins and outs. And when I get it right for him, he responds with grace and beauty, joy and creativity. And don’t forget humor! He has taught me to laugh again… at myself and all the silly beliefs that I have that limit me and our partnership. I don’t know if this relates to the topic, but is what I was inspired to write. I am very grateful for your insight and for you sharing your path and wisdom. On the path……

Lynda Stevenson
Lynda Stevenson

November 17, 2021

Do you have any suggestions/advice for getting the horse to leave the barn (go for a ride) without a huge struggle all the way out. followed by a mad race back?

Virginia Walker
Virginia Walker

November 05, 2021

I think this is so true. We learn from our horses what they need. An instructor may not notice or be aware of that right away. As they get to know the horse and talk to the owner they also learn what that particular horses needs. That is what a true teacher does. A classroom teacher does this day in and day out with 30 kids everyday. Sometimes they are very much like the horses, don’t get it, can’t get it, until the teacher figures out just what that child needs. This is constant all day long in a classroom. Those needs can and will be different for each subject and situation. That and it can change from minute to minute. A lot of hard work and a lot of patience. So when working with your horse just remember that classroom teacher and how much she has to explore and change to reach each child. You are only working/riding one horse at a time. Be patient and explore, be creative, make mistakes, teachers do all the time, until you find out what works for your horse. Watch people, learn from good teachers, and just try something you see that might work for your horse. Horses are all different, just like us, so explore, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Horses are very forgiving that is why they put up with us.

Tiffany Wallace
Tiffany Wallace

November 04, 2021

Hi Don! Absolutely astonishing for me to hear you and your wife even do things and feel things differently. I know it’s kinda of a BFO, but sometimes you just need to hear those! Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. I’m going to continue working on my art!

Lyla
Lyla

November 03, 2021

I love this article Don. I just move along at my pace and see so much progress from both my horse and me. Yes, patience and persistence, but I believe there can be perfect patience and perfect persistence at times.

Simone
Simone

November 03, 2021

Thanks for posting this! I used to get so stressed when training my BLM mustang because I was worried I would get it wrong and mess him up. He felt my tension and anxiety about having to be perfect and responded with weariness and being nervous and on high alert. Now, that I am more relaxed we have better results and see his trust growing. I also made the mistake to listen to these self proclaimed “experts” even though my heart/ gut feeling and experience with my horse told me differently. In the end you know your own horse best and it is important to honor that relationship and do what feels right to you.

Sally Twesten
Sally Twesten

November 03, 2021

Timely article and have been experiencing just how true it is. Love teaching my horse tricks and recently started doing short videos of the live process and posting on YouTube. Not really for anyone but me to enjoy and boy do I enjoy seeing how well earning together but what I noticed is that I definitely am not perfect or 100% consistent, but I try. It does work! Having shared 18 years together my horse has learned how to learn and knows his teacher well so he allows for my inconsistencies and responds to my enthusiasm. Thanks for helping me see this clearly. Love your articles.

Sally Twesten
Sally Twesten

November 03, 2021

Timely article and have been experiencing just how true it is. Love teaching my horse tricks and recently started doing short videos of the live process and posting on YouTube. Not really for anyone but me to enjoy and boy do I enjoy seeing how well earning together but what I noticed is that I definitely am not perfect or 100% consistent, but I try. It does work! Having shared 18 years together my horse has learned how to learn and knows his teacher well so he allows for my inconsistencies and responds to my enthusiasm. Thanks for helping me see this clearly. Love your articles.

Jean
Jean

November 03, 2021

Thanks for an excellent article. For a long time, I did not even want to try to teach my horse anything because I was unsure what to do. I have more confidence now and also have come to the conclusion that “something is better than nothing”. In other words, just get out there and be with your horse.

Jude
Jude

November 03, 2021

It is so awesome to hear this from a professional like you! For me the most important thing is my relationship with my horse. I find that the more I honor nurturing that relationship and communicating with my horse and trying really hard to listen to him the more connected we are and the more smoothly things go. When I was asking my trainer about doing something this way or that way and what my tendency was she said to me:" it’s your horse you get to do it however you want!". (Within reason of course). But I love that I get to develop something special with my horse, in partnership, that works for both of us. It might be messy, and it might not work for someone else, but that’s OK because he’s my horse :).

Maggie Scholl
Maggie Scholl

November 03, 2021

Don,
I so appreciate hearing that it’s not perfection but persistence that helps us teach our horses. It gives me permission to keep trying even though I know my performance is far from perfect. Thank you so much for your positive articles to continue to inspire us in our horsemanship journey.

Lucas Turner
Lucas Turner

November 03, 2021

Don, this is a really good article and one of the reasons I was drawn to you and your philosophy of horse training. What are your thoughts on two or more people working with the same horse? Seems in this situation you would want consistency and the same training techniques being used?

Leave a comment


Also in Articles * Videos * Inspiration

The metaphor of horses
The metaphor of horses

November 30, 2021 3 Comments

Read More

You're the lifeblood of us
You're the lifeblood of us

November 23, 2021

Read More

Farrier Problems?
Farrier Problems?

November 16, 2021 3 Comments

Read More