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This past week I have spent my days working alongside Lindsey learning everything I can pick from her brain on how she trains horses through Natural Horsemanship. But it's not just a training technique; it's a language. She doesn't just walk up to a horse and force it to work for her, she asks this 1000lb beast to make a choice. By offering this choice, she creates a partnership. One that I have high respect for. Because I can see how it functions, and I can see how effective it really is for training. But you cannot ask a horse to make a choice, if they do not understand the question in the first place.
I have been taught many ways to do the same thing with a horse; the most common is lungeing. I have been taught 100 different “right ways” to lunge: facing the horse, locking shoulders with the horse, following the horse, whipping the horse, yelling, stomping, and everything else few and far between. The first day I was out with Lindsey she asked me to do ground games with one of her horses, Fiona. I immediately set out to show off my newly learned lungeing techniques and was quick to notice Fiona's uncomfortable demeanor to my techniques. I was confused as I was perfectly set up in the way I had been taught; lunge line in one hand, whip in the other, and facing my horse, following the circle around me. She ran in circles around me, sure; but she was also turning in on me, flicking her ears back and almost half stepping at me telling me to stop with the pressure! Lindsey showed me how to do circles with Fiona from there, how by facing Fiona I was constantly putting pressure on her with my belly button and her reaction was out of confusion and discomfort. So I tried again, this time facing the direction in which I wanted Fiona to travel, and lead her with my belly button. I think of it now as using my belly button as a big light beam to show my horse where I want them to go. This was a new language that I had never been taught before, this wasn't some quick fix for a snarky horse, this was understanding why Fiona was upset and adjusting my own behaviour to properly convey my goals to her.
From here I have been working hard to be a very strong observer while working with the horses day by day. I understand now the importance to learn their language so we can better learn together; rather than trying to force them to understand my language. It's funny to think, but how often have you seen trainers pushing a horse to do a task by way of human language, and human force. And yet they think the horse is the stupid one. When we should be smart enough to understand how to communicate on their level, if we want them to do things for us.
By Jesse - a Guelph student doing a placement with Partridge Horse Hill
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Horsey Talk - by Jesse, a Guelph student doing a placement with us