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March 10, 2020 4 Comments
How you do things on day one is not the same as day ten... At least it shouldn't be. First contact is different than forth contact and so on.
If you have a skeptical horse that requires a special kind of approach to put the halter on, that's okay. What's not okay is to think that it will always be that way and allow a habit to be developed that keeps you and this horse locked in disharmony and uncertainty.
I've seen people approach their horse in the field with their eyes down and their feet slow like it was the first time the horse had ever seen a human, only it was the hundredth time. It's totally possible that people get stuck doing what they did on day one for too long and failing to make progress with planned steps and training.
Be careful not to settle into what your horse gives you. It's okay to demand a little more each day from your horse. Of course, there are physical limitations on your horse's joints and body, but their mind is flexible and they can adapt quickly. A wild mustang in my training, for instance, will take time on day one to allow me to touch him, but by day ten I can sprint up to him in the open field with halter in hand and she eagerly awaits the gifts I have for her.
Just think, the horse has twenty three hours per day to be a horse and maybe one hour per day to be a human's partner. Knowing that should give you permission to ask a little more.
The reason I'm saying all this is because most people get a result on day one or two and settle for that same result on day three through day three hundred. For instance, if it takes me two hours to get my horse to put his front feet in the trailer on day one, that doesn't mean I should expect to get back to that point on day two. I should expect to get past that point. I should demand a little more. The same principle goes for riding walk, trot, and canter. The same principle goes for my posture in the saddle. It's a global principle of progress.
It is insane to get the same results day after day. Why settle for that? What's wrong with asking for a little more of yourself and your horse? Sure your horse will get frustrated, so what? Kids at school get frustrated with math problems, should we tell the teacher to stop asking harder math problems of our kids?
Don't let frustration dictate the outcome. Work through the frustration to get to a better point. End on a good note, then come back tomorrow and end on an even better note.
It's true that some days you just can't win, but those are the days where you run out of time and have to leave for an appointment. Or you misread the horse's physical limitations and forgot to add recess and recovery time. If you had the time, you'd never fail with your horse. Your horse needs breaks and recesses to recover but he doesn't need you to demand so little.
This is why my ten day colt start looks like this (generally).
Day 1: after a warm-up, some bonding time, etc. I demand the horse stands still for saddling and mounting (no riding) (It might take two hours, it might only take ten minutes to get to this point)
Day 2: repeat previous day plus... ask the horse to carry the saddle (not me) in the walk, trot and canter until there is no adverse reaction to those transitions
Day 3: repeat previous day plus... ask the horse to carry me at the walk, turning, and stop level until he's really solid (side note: I'm also working on things not related to riding, just not illustrated here)
Day 4: repeat previous day plus... integrate a few steps of trotting (It might take two hours, it might only take ten minutes to get to this point)
Day 5: repeat previous day plus... integrate more steps of trotting until I can trot a course full of turns, stops, transitions up and down, all without any adverse reactions
Day 6: repeat previous day plus... integrate a few steps of canter (It might take two hours, it might only take ten minutes to get to this point)
Day 7: repeat previous day plus... integrate more canter steps until I can hold the canter for a little while
Day 8: repeat previous day plus... integrated even more canter until we can canter a small course full of turns, stops, transitions up and down, all without adverse reactions
Day 9: repeat previous day plus... integrate riding outside the arena at the walk and possibly trot
Day 10: repeat previous day plus... integrate riding outside the arena in challenging situations and integrating canter into the outside riding
Take note here, re-read the process to see what I'm saying, that at no point did I allow my horse to buck while on his back. The process kept me safe by ensuring no adverse reactions before I took the next step each time.
There are many variations to this process including time, equipment, tools, technique, style, etc. Some trainers do it all in five days, most trainers do it all in about thirty days. Most novice trainers need about six months to a year to reach day ten in my program. That's perfectly fine. The point is not how fast you move forward, the point is that you do move forward!
Don't get stuck hoping your horse will get better some how with time. Put in the time yourself to ensure he/she gets better. Get more out of day two than you did out of day one. That goes for everything. If you want a better liberty (no ropes) connection with your horse, make a ten day program of what progress looks like for you and start on that path. Make sure you get more out of day two than you did out of day one. Notice how the progress seems slow but ten days goes by quick and before you know it you're at liberty in wide open fields.
Progress past day one means you see what day ten looks like so you can mechanically break down what day two should look like in comparison. This will ensure you never settle for less than what's possible.
Give yourself breaks, give your horse breaks, be patient, be open, but be clear. You don't want to be the person who looks back a year from now says, "I really haven't done anything this year. I can't believe I'm still not doing that thing I said I'd be doing by now."
Be progressive, be positive, be as natural as you can be and get past day one.
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Thanks for reading
March 12, 2020
Thank you love these blogs. My planning could be better, and I get stuck.
The 10 day out look is something I need to do.
March 11, 2020
Small steps are the way to go and the way you have broken them down is awesome. I am hoping to achieve flying changes before winter so somehow I have to be able to break this down into small steps. Any ideas would be welcome :)
March 11, 2020
Such a timely article Don!
I love your last sentence, “Be progressive, be positive, be as natural as you can be and get past day one.”
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April 07, 2020
Thanks Don love your advice I have a very sensitive smart gelding He always pins his ears when I do my warm up lunge at the trot .then hind quarter yields pinned eats then ask for the back up and then he pricks his ears and licks his lips I’m confused as to why the back up always gets a great response with all my horses on the lunge .only lunge 3or 4 circles before I ride just to see where they are at