Last week I had the opportunity to take both horses to a clinic with a local horsemanship coach, Danique Henderson. I was excited because I have followed her for a few years and really liked her work and philosophy. When a friend was having her at her stable and invited me I leapt at it.
|this dog kills me- he lost his toy so |
he decided that I could throw hay instead
A really nice thing about this clinic is that it was a 15 minute trailer ride away. Usually I'm looking at 90 minutes minimum so this felt like a treat. We were in the afternoon so I had time in the morning to do chores ride Carmen and get organised. It was also a good chance to practice loading and unloading all by myself in a low-stress situation.
I put Carmen on first and then brought Quaid out. It took a little to have him load himself in the trailer. He dithered a bit but was not stressed. My back up was to lead him on and tie him and then put up the butt bar but I didn't need to. With a sigh and some encouragement he walked on. When we arrived I unloaded him and handed him to an unsuspecting young woman who was standing there. I put them in their stalls and got them settled with water and hay. Stephanie had stalls that had them separated which was great. Quaid became obsessed with the pony next door. The pony was less enthused. Carmen's stall was at the end of the aisle and had an elevated floor. She looked huge.
I was able to watch a couple sessions before it was my turn. I decided to bring Quaid first.
I'm about to describe the clinic from what I remember and learned. Any errors are not a reflection on Danique- I probably have it wrong
When I brought Quaid in he was quite 'up' and definitely tense. Danique asked about him and I explained that he was 3 and I wanted to improve my groundwork skills with him. I said 'he's quite excited right now'
Danique "this is him wound up?'
Me: yes this is about as excited as he gets.
D: wow. that's pretty good.
It took, I dunno, about 3 minutes for her to figure us out. She then asked if she could take him. I answered of course. To summarise: she believed that he didn't really pay attention to me because I was his safe space. So he felt okay with tuning me out while looking at the others watching, sniffing the ground and looking around. All of which was totally fair.
|talking to Danique, see his focus is elsewhere? (PC Stephanie)|
She took him and put a little pressure to get him to tune in and respond. She noted that he was definitely not afraid of pressure (the whip) which made him easy to work with. Even when she got after him a little harshly for totally blowing her off he would jump and look at her like 'what the heck lady?'
Danique then showed me how to use my energy to help him understand when to respond and when to chill. She talked about how horses learn in rhythm so we need to make sure that we do happens in that way. It was a pretty simple exercise but difficult to keep it all together. As humans we don't always pay attention to our energy and how horses are so attuned to it. The exercise was simply to walk, stop, back up and/or turn. She talked a lot about intention and how I need to match it to my energy. So if I want him to do something I need to tighten my stomach and bring up my energy. To halt I let my energy leak out my feet. To first teach him to back up I was to use my feet and then bring my arm around with the rope in front of his nose so he could see it. It didn't take long for him to tune in. I could tighten my core, pick up the rope and walk toward him and he'd back up. I could pick up the rope and keep my core soft and he'd stay so I could come up and pat him. I am thinking that if you were watching it would be hard to see the difference.
Another side note: she really really liked Quaid. I told her his breeding and it turned out that a horseman she admires recommended she use the same stud. She also asked what colour he was and I said 'bay'. But he has this gold sheen. I said he's still bay as far as I knew. But let's just go with he's pretty. But she right, he has these gold hairs so it's so easy for him to shine with a little bit of brushing.
My takeaways were:
- be clear in my intention
- keep working on making sure he attends to me
- don't accept him ignoring or being distracted and doing things half-assed