Sunday, May 31, 2009

Colt starting blatherings... I don't know if I make any sense and I'm afraid I'm not saying what I'm trying to say, but here you go:

I went and watched Bella's fourth ride with my sister today and it really got me thinking.

Bella had the notorious Third Ride yesterday and threw in a little buck that would have become a big bucking fit had my sister not shut her down. But they got through it and the ride ended very well.

My thoughts as I watched today's ride, which was very good but had a few bad moments, were that she needs to slow down, bond more, and make it easier on Bella.

Amy knows more about training than I do and has more experience with more horses. But as she cited all the things she's read, heard, and seen stating that all colts have a bad third ride, I got to wondering whether that needs to be the case. These trainers that make that statement, are they all in a hurry to turn out a finished product ASAP? Or do they have in mind the fact that they're building a lifelong bond of trust and willingness to work? I know that they end up with a good horse even if they go quickly. The horse figures it out and moves on, but would there be fewer battles and less confusion if they slowed down, made the confusing things more clear, or at least instilled a trust in the horse that would make them try despite their doubt as to the outcome? Would the horse need to get confused and get angry and defensive? Or if done the way I'm thinking makes sense to me, would they be spoiled and never learn to deal with stress and stimuli?

What I saw with Bella wasn't willfulness just to see what she could get away with. She was overloaded and decided she needed to do something about it. Why should the third ride be bad when the third leading lesson wasn't? The third trailer loading wasn't, even though she was scared. She knew me and trusted me and decided to do what I asked even though it didn't feel right. And then I wonder if there were some hard parts I'm forgetting about. Maybe there was a Third (Something) that I just forgot because it was over quickly and we moved on.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with pushing through a bad ride, getting to the other side and showing the horse that they can deal with a little stress. I just wonder if it doesn't have to be that way all the time, if you get creative and start looking at the horse's point of view, mix things up a bit and do something the horse is good at in between asking for new and confusing things. Maybe ride for a shorter amount of time, once they've got the basic gist of what you're telling them that day, while they're still trying and before they get overdone and start to get rebellious.

I'm not making much sense... I guess at the heart of my thoughts is this questioning whether all these training gurus do things in a businesslike way that works for them, when a horse owner might do them in a friendly way that makes more sense for the bond between the horse and rider... Does that make sense? I think I'm right about the situation with Bella. But I wonder if I'm generalizing too much and being too mushy thinking that it could work that way for a lot of other horses if they were trained in a different way. Because there is something to be said for teaching quickly and clearly. Why take hours to explain something when it can be taught in minutes by the right teacher with the right feel and timing? It's got to be easier and less boring to the horse a to learn it and move on, get out of the round pen and get to doing a job. But what if they're not being stubborn but just confused or over-stimulated? Is there such thing as a stubborn, willful horse? Or just a confused, scared, and maybe defensive horse? I think I may have known a couple stubborn horses, but now that I really get to thinking about it, were they stubborn or was there something else going on? A lack of leadership? Fear? Lack of trust? Confusion? Sensory overload?

Maybe I'm being too soft. Not sure as of now. But the more I think I've learned the more it makes me wonder if there are other things that are just as right, and maybe more right in the eyes of the horse and in terms of trust. We all know there's more than one way to do most things.

I'm not judging my sister's training, mind you. What she's doing is great. They'd be totally fine without my blathering about trust and nonsense. She was very interested in my feedback and wants to make sure she's doing the right thing by Bella. I think a little more bonding is in order, but she's doing a good job of that too. Maybe shorter sessions, and sometimes go for a walk or something else that Bella seems to enjoy doing but can also be considered bonding and training. Amy is doing a WONDERFUL job and Bella has come a long way in her saddle training in just 4 days. Really amazing, the difference in her comfort level. I thing they're doing just fine, but this got me thinking on a different level, wondering about a lot of things. Probably I just don't know what the heck I'm talking about... I'm not quite sure I really know what it is I'm trying to say... I guess what I do, I do from the heart. I do what feels right at the moment. I hope that doesn't mean I'm ruining my horses. I hope my intuition is correct. I think my horses are okay. I know I screw up sometimes. What a journey this is...


Kara said...

I'm no professional horse trainer with a deadline (the more horses and the faster you go, the more money you make), but I go a lot slower. It's for my safety as much as the horse's mental health. I try to do as much on the ground so that when I get in the saddle, it is just easy. They almost already know what I want and if they don't, it doesn't take very long at all to figure out. Granted, my horses are not necessarily kid-safe, but they are pretty darn good, although still a bit green in the arena work sense...they can take a trail pretty well though, because that's what I do with them. I am all for slow when it comes to things that could jeopardize my safety. I make sure the horse is comfortable and is not going to buck, before I ever get on. And once one, I just ride. I do push them, but I trail ride, and that makes more sense to horses than arena work all those little things that you teach them can serve a purpose on the trail. I agree with you that things do not need to be so rushed, but I think it will take us longer to get the "finished" product, whatever that is, than a horse that is pushed through their confusion in the beginning. They do eventually figure it out, but a trainer does need to adjust some for each different horse's personality and learning style. I'm kind of blabbering too, but I prefer to go much slower with training (and gentling wild mustangs). We aren't in a race. Like you said, we (as trainers of our own animals) are building a bond and that takes a lot of time.

Linda said...

I've thought about this many times myself. My close friend is an excellent trainer--but they're not paying her to bond with their horses. They want those horses trained quickly because time really is money.

She always does solid ground training before she ever gets on though--and I was always surprised at how unexciting her first rides were--no bucking--nothing. And when I'd comment, she always said if there's bucking going on, she didn't do her job right on the ground. Sometimes, after the first ride--it could be 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, there was more resistance as they tested her. Partially because they hadn't developed a work ethic yet--but sometimes because they were cinch sore or something else. She's good at figuring out which is which.

Most people only want to pay for 30 days board and training--so a lot has to be accomplished in a small amount of time.

Every Spring, first of the year, I have more resistance with my dead broke horse, Cowboy--as he transitions from lawn ornament to working horse (if you can call what I ask of him "work") He doesn't buck, but he'll jig--so same thing.

I talked to a "Cowboy" once who said they used to jump on a green horse in the Spring and use it all Summer--this was in Montana--and they'd just ride the buck out of them and then point them down the trail. Hmmmm...

As for me, I take it slow--because I can.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'd never heard of the third ride thing, and I've never experienced it either. Maybe just thinking it will be a troublesome ride is enough to make it so? Self fulfilling prophecy and all that? :)