Friday, April 20, 2012
In the Arena
The perfect is not just an enemy of the good, it can be the worst enemy of the good. Perfectionism is, among its many other deleterious affects, paralyzing. One cannot wait until one is confident that one has every bit of the system down pat before beginning to work a horse. I worry about riders that have only been riding for a few months who are actually concerned that horses respond better to me than they do to the new rider. I have been doing this much longer than most of my riders have been alive. I should get better responses than do the new horseman.
It is by doing that one learns to do. Not only can the horse and the rider/trainer learn together, they must do so or the process simply becomes a stagnant set of rituals carried out without pleasure for either horse or human.
Ta Sunka Witco has not had his confidence boosted by solid retraining for much too long. Even a "perfect" horse needs to take about a week every year to go back through every step of his training, round pen, monsters, amusement park, pressure and release--the entire sequence. My failure to do so with Sunka has lead to him being spooky and fearful in the woods.
Shelly is a serious student of natural horsemanship. She took Sunka into the round pen and began giving him confidence boosting retraining sessions. In less than ten hours of work she has done wonders for him. She would be the first to tell you that she is not an expert, but is learning. She would be the first to tell you that she has more questions than answers. She might not be the first to tell you that she is doing a first rate job with Sunka, but the fact remains the same. If she waited until she felt that she knew all the answers she would never get in the round pen.
Kelly is a serious student of natural horsemanship. She has taken on the task of making Noelle into a relaxed, confident horse. Noelle has one of the most difficult problems that I ever face with horses. She has had to have long term sessions of painful medical treatment to over come a serious injury that she received in the wild. Humans do not represent a theoretical threat to her. Humans represent real pain, administered on a regular basis. She has no way of distinguishing life saving medical care from torture. To her, people are simply conveyors of suffering. Kelly is learning as she is working the little mare. They are growing in trust and confidence together.
Vickie is a serious student of natural horsemanship. Vickie lives a few hours from us. She and her husband Dennis worked with a local rescue league and have taken on the task of gentling several mustangs. They faced this challenge as novices. They studied. They observed. Now they get in the pen and apply. Vickie has brought some of these horses much further than the experts of the established horse world ever could have. All without waiting until they had all of the answers.
All three of these ladies faced the same problem--how to control a horse without showing fear. Allowing one's fear to cause one to yield to the horse is an error fatal to solid training. It is one mistake that, if persistently made, can quickly turn a good natured horse into a dangerous bully. All three have already achieved remarkable success. All three have found tremendous satisfaction in their horse work. All three have learned a lot. All three have a lot to learn. All three are successful.
All three got out of the audience and got into the arena. Horses cannot be trained from the bleachers. The most important lessons that I have learned about horses came from mistakes that I have made with them. Those in the bleachers never get the opportunity to make those mistakes.
Get in the arena. Take the risk of failing. Take the risk of injury. Enjoy the risk of living.
Its worth it.
Posted by Steve Edwards