One step wonder by Don Jessop - Mastery Horsemanship
One step wonder by Don Jessop

One step wonder by Don Jessop

September 28, 2021 20 Comments

One step wonder by Don Jessop

Today's lesson is going to be short and sweet. Here it is:

Analogy:

When you're driving a car on a flat road and you push the gas pedal, the car goes faster forward, right? When you take your foot off the gas pedal, does the car keep going fast or does it being to slow down? Your car naturally slows when you take your foot off the gas pedal. That's normal. That's how it should be.

Imagine a car that kept accelerating even after you took your foot off the pedal. That would be bad news. Unfortunately, that's how many horses act. When asked to go, some horses keep going without regard for anything else. Some horses are even punished for slowing down. Master horse trainers know better and they can offer you a simple lesson you can take home and apply today to horses that don't slow naturally and help get the kind of results and relationship most people dream of with a horse.

Here's the lesson: Get on your horse (if he/she's rideable) and ask him to step forward. When he does step forward, release your asking signal, or stop asking for forward. Just relax, take your foot off the gas pedal, metaphorically speaking, and see what happens.

If your horse keeps walking, or worse, speeds up, even after you take your foot off the gas pedal, you've got a problem that is easily fixable.

If, however, your horse takes one step on command, then slows down to a stop because they sense you didn't ask for more, you've got a winner. I want a horse that goes when I ask, how fast I want, how far I want, and slows when I stop asking. Some novice trainers want a horse that won't slow down because they don't want to keep asking the horse to go. So it's about to get a little more confusing. Just breathe! Let me explain!

Principle one: A smart, sensitive horse will listen to all your body cues. Including, gas pedal on/off, and brake pedal on/off, and reverse and sideways, etc. A reactive horse will listen to only a few signals, primarily; gas pedal on and heavy brake pedal. Which would you rather have; a horse that's reactive or a horse that's attentive and doesn't make assumptions?

Principle two: A horse can learn to hold the gas pedal on, just like a car holds the gas pedal in cruise control, making it easier to keep your speed without having to constantly kick or squeeze for forward. This horse should only learn this advanced lesson of "cruise control" or "maintaining gait," after they learn gas pedal on/off control. NOT BEFORE!

Hopefully those two principles help make sense of any previous education you've had about how horses should and shouldn't respond when you say to go forward. 

The game, "one step wonder," is about teaching your horse a simple, fun game of stepping forward without holding forward. Later you can teach holding forward. Today... find out if your horse is truly listening to your body signals, or if they are still only reacting to basic commands. My horses can go forward, maintaining gait for as long as I want, reminded by the most subtle body cues, or they can slow when I take off the gas pedal. They can do both! Your horse can do both too.

Try the one step wonder game and see if your horse can take just one step forward and immediately charge down and relax after. If they don't decelerate, put on the brakes and ask for a few steps of backup. Then try again, applying the brakes each time until, eventually, they anticipate slowing down immediately after going forward without you touching the reins to force slowing down. At that point, they will offer to slow down when you take the gas pedal off and you'll achieve the one step wonder winner's trophy. A horse that will do that, demonstrates a higher level of impulsion.

So what's the value of the one step wonder game? You horse's behavior improves because they are listening to every detail about forward energy, not just "go and stay going." Your horse learns to go slower for riders that need to go slower, like preparing for kids to ride. Your horse becomes more attentive to you and less reactive to the environment or internal anxiety. The usefulness of your horse improves too. You'll be able to open and close gates while mounted or ride in open fields, or up and down hills slowly, or even ride with other horses because your horse is paying attention to the details you need instead of everything else!

Would you like to see a video of how to play the one step wonder game? Comment below and I'll make one for you. The more comments I get helps me see your interest and will help me make that video for you sooner. Thanks and have fun!



20 Responses

Ruth Umfleet
Ruth Umfleet

October 07, 2021

Thank you for another great article. We are ‘there’ to some extent.

Sue Fanning
Sue Fanning

October 01, 2021

What a splendid explanation of a difficult concept to grasp :-) Thanks for this Don!

Alison Pimbert
Alison Pimbert

October 01, 2021

This is definitely a tool I need. To stay with me, even when I want the same thing and not react to a potential change.

Lyla Spencer
Lyla Spencer

September 30, 2021

As always Don, love your articles and would love to watch the video. As you know I have a horse that can be either whoa or go, depending on his mood. By the way this will be a fun game for the clinic!

Sharlee Mayer
Sharlee Mayer

September 30, 2021

I would love to see your video. I have a young mustang that is more whoa then go, which is OK by me. But, I would like to know more about how to keep him going forward without nagging and yet keep the whoa easy. Hope that makes sense….

Dawn Jennings
Dawn Jennings

September 30, 2021

Love your articles!! I have a 28-year old and a 5-year old who can both benefit from this. Appreciate your video! Thank you Don :)

Kathleen Wattles
Kathleen Wattles

September 30, 2021

We can never be reminded enough of this important communication and I would love to see your video. Your description is perfect too. I try and remember to breath and speak with my energy. I am always watching and learning more. Thank you Don.

Loretta
Loretta

September 30, 2021

I love this natural common sense approach to whoa and go.
Love to see your video Don!

Bobbie Matt
Bobbie Matt

September 29, 2021

I would love to see the video to get a better feel of the process

Sharon gilkeson
Sharon gilkeson

September 29, 2021

I enjoy all your articles. I would like to see your video. I have very sensitive cutting horse so am always looking how to improve.

Mary Kay
Mary Kay

September 29, 2021

Count me in too, Don, just a perfect lesson for my green PRE mare!!!

Eileen
Eileen

September 29, 2021

Would love to see the video too! Thanks for all you do Don!

Christine
Christine

September 29, 2021

You describe things so well that I have a picture in my mind, but your videos are invaluable. Would love to see you in action. Thanks!

Charlene Foley
Charlene Foley

September 29, 2021

Yes!! Thank you Don I was just experiencing this issue!! A recent ride with herd dynamic change, really affected this very issue!! I needed to be a more effective leader for sure!!

Susan
Susan

September 29, 2021

Great analogy and I see this a lot in the lessons at my barn. It’s a constant pressing on that gas pedal because the instructors/students want to “go”, the end product. As they say “a picture is worth a thousand words” and seeing those words in action makes it that much more understandable. Thanks for offering the video.

Bonnie McLaughlin
Bonnie McLaughlin

September 29, 2021

Videos always add to the picture. Thanks

Joseph Nawrocki
Joseph Nawrocki

September 29, 2021

Would like to see this video. Thank you very muchm

LISA LOFTUS
LISA LOFTUS

September 29, 2021

I’d really like to see the video. That helps give me a clear picture in my mind!
Thanks.

Carol  Nichols
Carol Nichols

September 29, 2021

Good info. Thx! Pls send video. Thx

Jan Fifer
Jan Fifer

September 29, 2021

I would love to see that video, Don!

Jan

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