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Working and Playing Together

It is always nice to get together with like minded individuals. At a recent gathering, six of us got together to play and help each other out with our training. To be able to work together, and help each other and our horses with no ego involved was a put delight.

There were moments of just pure joy, when watching Mary and Rosy work on their relationship using simple targeting of Mary’s hands to Rosy’s nose, followed by a click and a treat when Rosy breathed out signaling she was relaxing. Boy talk about thin slicing for a behaviour. Built into the progression of this will be jaw flexions and all sorts of balance exercises, which is typical of Alexandra Kurland’s layered work. To the casual observer this exercise would appear quite silly, but to those of us who are familiar with the work we know it will lead to great things.

Shannon was working on a very difficult lesson with her new horse. This lesson, one of the foundation lessons of backing in a square, served to once again remind us that while our training is positive it is far from permissive. We work on a conversation each listening to the other in the pair of student and teacher. Shannon had to listen to Whisper saying he was not really happy, but would try and Shannon had to ask questions that Whisper’s answer to could be yes. Shannon was working very hard to get enough of a yes that she could click and reinforce it. She has to use a lot of her tai chi wall and rope mechanics to not make Whisper feel trapped or punished and good releases to tell him he was on the right track. There were lots of resets and ‘try agains’ but neither got frustrated or angry. They were both searching for the answer. It was a difficult lesson, but neither one got upset with it. This was because their foundation work was solid and they could have a conversation. By the next day Whisper had processed the lesson and was ready to say yes to a lot more of the questions.

Marlys wanted to work on energy and building a better walk. Her horse was good with someone walking beside him, but when ridden the energy just wasn’t there so there was something he wasn’t perhaps quite clear on. We used a ground person to help during the riding to transfer the ‘more energy’ feel to the rider’s cue. Paddy was happily moving out very soon with just his rider doing the cueing.

Shirley was just getting to know what games her new pony Bali was able to do and what needed work so was a relationship, conversation lesson and collected lots of great data for future conversations for the two of them to play with.

In this work it is important to listen to our horses. If we have built a relationship where the conversation is a two way conversation we do need to listen to what they have to say. This is not saying we won’t ask something, but if we have a lesson firmly established and then when we ask for it the answer is ‘not today’ then it is our responsibility to figure out why the answer was no, now. If your horse readily takes the bridle, but one day says politely no, even being offered it several times, then it is our responsibility to figure out why. Perhaps he is a young horse whose teeth have begun to bother him; perhaps he is not happy with something that is happening after the bridle goes on. Now is the time, as Alex would say to gather data, go have a cup of tea and figure out what the triggers to this ‘no’ are. We can all make our horses take their bridle but at what cost to the relationship?

Until next time keep it positive!

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