Welcome to the first video entry on The Salt Block (TSB)! This week we are launching the “Partnership Series” which will be focusing on the basic horsemanship skills that everyone should master! It is the little difference that makes the difference so lets dive in and learn how to perform the basics with excellence.
First off, we must understand the dynamics of horse-human relations. Horses and prey animals and base the majority of their actions on survival. In turn we are predators who not only smell like carnivores (vegetarians are off the hook) but often act in a very predatory manor. The beauty of natural horsemanship is that it teaches us to think outside the box and against our normal thought patterns. This article is going to challenge you to do just that.
The biggest thing I want you to learn from the video is how and when I approach the horse. We have a saying in Parelli, (lets face it, we have a bazillion sayings in Parelli) that goes “mind, flexion, weight, feet”. This saying describes the sequence of events that must take place for a horse to move. You see, first a horse has to have the thought “I want to go there,” Then they have to flex their bodies in the direction, and weight the appropriate half of the body to free up their feet to move.
How to take this strategy into the pasture: When the horse is distracted or ignoring you, walk towards the horse’s hip. Even if they start walking away from you, keep a laser beam focus on the horse’s hindquarters. Eventually the horse is going to become curious as to what you are doing and look at you. The second this happens you needs to take the pressure off by stopping your feet and even better, backing up. If the horse is extra sensitive you may consider turning your back to the horse and walking away. Just facing a sensitive horse let alone starting at its rump will apply tons of pressure. Rinse and repeat this exercise till the horse is so curious that they are drawn towards you. Once they catch you make sure to give them something good. i.e. scratches, or treats. I understand that some horses can become monsters with treats. In this scenario make sure to find an alternative reward.
Other Things To Consider:
1. You may consider using a whistle or verbal Que. to build in a conditioned response.
2. The longer it takes for your horse to catch you the more time you should spend rewarding them.
3. The way your horse greats you today is a great reflexion of how they felt about your session yesterday.
4. Take the time to start off on the right foot, with a happy and willing participant. Imagine going on a date with someone whom you had to corner and slap a leash on to get them to participate.
5. Don’t be sneaky, that is what predators do! Be clear in your intention, but use reverse psychology to get the horse curious.
6. If walking towards your horse’s hip isn’t enough pressure you can use the tail of your lead-rope to swing in a rhythmic way at the hip. Be sure to stay out of the kick zone!
Please feel free to email me or comment with any questions or insights!