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.