Changing "Oh-No!" into "Ah-Ha!"

Our society looks at things that are not working, the way we’d like them to, with a negative “oh no” reaction. I want you to learn to see those “oh no” moments as “a-ha!” moments instead; to view them as positive opportunities to build and strengthen behaviour, relationship and balance with your horse.

Turning an “oh no” into an “a-ha!” will not work if you just practice the same old same old. How many times have you seen someone dealing with an issue simply doing the same thing over and over? Let’s take lunging for instance, as it was something I presented last month and will be fresh in your mind.

The horse refuses to move away from the handler or falls in on the circle or turns, and the handler becomes the one being lunged. The handler repeats the same cue, yet expects a different result.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” - Albert Einstein.

This statement makes perfect sense, yet I constantly see this behaviour when riders work with their horses! By the end, both are tired and frustrated, and the handler may have damaged the relationship that she was trying to build.

If you recognize yourself here, stop and ask yourself these questions:

Does the horse understand all the cues that I think he does?

Is my body language actually asking for what I am getting?

Am I aware enough of my body to be able to tell if this is happening?

Am I trying to get the correct part of the horse to leave first?

Does he want to be with me and bend on the arc of the circle, or does he want to leave and is looking away from the inside?

Do I have his mind?

Making a video of your session is invaluable to give you the information you need to answer these questions. Stopping the session if you are not getting anywhere is fine and a much better choice than “making” it happen. Getting bigger may get what you want, but does he really understand what you want? Or was it a lucky guess? Does he want to readily do the behaviour again or is he looking to escape because he really doesn’t understand what you want?

Component clicker training ensures he does understand and is very willing and eager to repeat the behaviour because he understands. Remember that you and your horse should be calmer at the end of the session than when you started. “A-ha!” moments allow us to see where communication and understanding is