Imagine standing eight feet from your horse, both facing each other. Imagine you have a goal for him to canter a circle around you. Imagine raising your hand and lifting your stick to encourage him to head out on the circle. NOW PAUSE!
Ask yourself this question... What's more important - a snappy departure or a smooth departure?
If you answered "smooth," you got it right. Well done, you are smarter than the average bear. :)
But for years I was taught the opposite, and maybe you were too. So let me be clear! Snappy departures are NOT the right answer to the question, and here is why:
There is nothing wrong with a snappy departure IF it's developed over time, with the horses balance and fitness in mind. But a horse that jumps from zero to fifteen miles per hour, without the proper balance, timing, and training, develops bad posture and a general bad attitude toward the tools we use to ask for it. Or worse, he or she develops a bad attitude toward people. If you don't believe me, take a video of yourself asking your horse for snappy departures (either on the ground or riding), and watch his attitude and posture unravel in slow motion. If you don't know much about the horse's balance and posture, I suggest you pick up my book on "Horses and Leadership."
I have diagrams all throughout the book about calm, responsive, and relaxed horses (what horses should look like).
There is really only one instance where forceful quick movement would be required from your horse. And that would be when he disrespects your personal space (such as barging in, stepping on you, kicking or biting you). Keep personal space in mind as you begin to educate your horse for what you want. But, once you get your horse to respect your space, please consider slowing down your teaching suggestions. Once you have him or her in a learning frame of mind. Make learning fun. Make learning easy to understand. Take the stress and tension out of learning. Make "smooth" responses to your suggestions, your priority. Make "balance" your priority. Make "good posture" your priority. Don't fall for the trap that too many natural horsemanship trainers teach about snappy departures. They simply don't see the whole picture to mastery. But you are smarter than that. If you're reading this blog, you're already proving to be someone who's interested in deeper learning. And I appreciate you for that.
The horse's dignity is of upmost importance to a mastery student or trainer. I believe and hope you agree! Learning better techniques to enhance your horse's posture and response systems can improve his or her overall experience in our human world.
I'm considering doing a short video on the subject of snappy vs smooth departures. Would you like to see it? If so, comment below. The more comments that appear, the more likely I'm to race out and get that video done for you. Thank you so much for reading. See you soon.