dancing horses

dancing horses

Saturday, August 16, 2014


In my job as a Manager in Health Care I take many courses on conflict, teaming, communication etc. I enjoy them and often walk away with something new. In one course the instructor started talking about emotions and how they impact job performance and how we need to be sensitive to that. I made the comment that "while feelings are important they are not always relevant". That earned me a look from the instructor and some comments.

Perhaps the comment was blunter than I meant it to be (I can be fairly direct) but I think I was misunderstood- I'm not a cold person. But sometimes how you 'feel' about something isn't going to change the task. I certainly did not enjoy nor want to hol down my 2 year old daughter while the doctor put stitches in her head. But how I felt wasn't relevant- it had to be done. Or perhaps I am a cold person. Whatever. (that was a joke).

By now you may be asking how this relates to himself.
can you get to the point? 
As a young horse early in his training he is not always keen on doing some things. As you may recall, my ring is surrounded by tall grass trees and bushes. When it's windy they wave and rustle and generally are a distraction. Steele is not too keen on this. The last few days have been windy. And Steele was very reluctant to approach those areas that were particularly dense and, if he did so had no intention of bending to the inside.

 I completely understood how he felt. The riding is new so it heightens his level of awareness, he was separated from Irish and he was honestly wary of the waving  greenery.

However, it was completely irrelevant.

The truth is that he was not worried about it when I was doing my groundwork, he would stand there just fine and if he was loose he would be right there grazing in it without a care in the world. He needed to figure out that he would work with these distractions and it really was no big deal. And even if it was a big deal, it was my worry not his. In the show ring I will have no control over distractions outside of the ring. So rather then allow him to avoid those spots  or drive him to these spots I completely ignored them and carried on with my schooling as though we were in a bubble.

This bubble thing is tricky. I can't override, or let him do what he wants,  I just have to ride like it's all fine. So I had to make sure that legs, hands and weight were right where they needed to be if it was all perfect despite how he was behaving.  My tendency is to over do an aid if it doesn't work- as a result I end up leaning too far to taking too much rein or I can do the opposite and give too much away. I decided to let him figure out where the comfort zone was. For example as we travelled down the long side and he tried to pop out his inside shoulder and gawk suspiciously as the grass I simply kept my inside leg on and my reins/hands stayed where they should be. This caused him discomfort but I ignored it all and let him find me. Which he did. And then he lost me. And then found me again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Each time it was a little quicker.

 Once when we trotting down that side he gave a spook by planting his hind legs and doing a pretty good turn on the haunches to the inside. Because I was balanced in the saddle I simply went with him. We stood there at a 45 degree angle and 4 feet from the fence. "oh" I said. "this is not where I wanted to be"  and without any drama or emotion I simply asked for a turn on the haunches back to the rail, walked 2 strides and then carried on with the trot. I could feel him thinking about all of this.

By keeping my emotions away from my bubble and letting him figure out that his 'feelings' about the distractions were not the most important thing we took what could have been a disastrous ride and turned it around.
Were we perfect at the end? Nope. But we were better. Much better. And both of us have more confidence in each other.


  1. Good point. That's what my horse trainer has been trying to pass on to us. Take the emotion and fear out of if and just keep the pressure on until the horse reaches the goal. I love it when people apply horsemanship skills to their jobs. My daughter mentioned her experience working with horses when interviewing for a job taking care of special needs children, and fortunately the employer saw the value in that and hired her instead of taking it as an insult that she might treat children like horses.

    I once had to work with a man who didn't lift a finger to do anything for six years straight. I was always having to work overtime to pick up his slack. When I finally lost it and told my employer that he had to choose between us, because I wasn't going to continue on busting my butt while this other man happily collected his paycheck month after month despite not providing any services, my employer attempted to fire him. However, the man told some sob story about how his life is falling apart and losing his job would be the last straw, so my employer agreed to keep him on as long as he produced a written manual within six weeks. You know what the jerk did? He pulled a manual I had already written off the server and replaced my name with his on the byline! I didn't find this out until about a year later. Anyway, I kept pointing out that he still wasn't doing any work and I brought up the point that his life must have been falling apart for six years, because that's as long as he hadn't been working. Only when I went on vacation for a week did my employer suddenly realize just how much I did and how little the other guy did, and he fired him, ignoring his sob stories. Hopefully, that was the best thing that could have happened to him in order for him to finally get his life together.

  2. In my opinion, this is the perfect way to deal with a young, distracted horse! I've made quite a few mistakes with Allie and wish I had always dealt with her shenanigans like this, instead of the "make a big deal go and touch that thing it's not that scary" way, which just does not work most of the time.

  3. I wish we were neighbors so I could bum a lesson or two off of you hehe. I have so much to learn! Love this post. Thanks for sharing!


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