- to enhance my communication (ie. STOP WAVING MY ROPE, STICK AND STRING!!!!!)
- motivate billy (which will help with the communication)
- work on ground driving
- have fun
all 11 participants had their own goals for the weekend and he went over each and every one. listening to each person talk about their journey was so inspiring. everyone brought to the table something that we could all relate to. some goals were more simple and some way beyond me.
after our little meeting david broke us into two groups, group 1 and group A... the man obviously has worked with a bunch of women before!
for the morning i was in group 1 so went out to gather up billy blaze.
we came back into the arena and learned about the importance of teaching our horses to lower it's head whenever it feels overwhelmed or scared. with a lowered head comes relaxation and engages the brain. THIS is how we teach our horse to do NOTHING when it becomes scared.
lowered head = nothing
to teach this we would create a commotion with the stick, in what ever way we needed to for our own horse. for some that would be just the stick tapping the back (and we all started here...) and for others they quickly graduated to using a plastic bag on the stick and/or tied to the end of the string. we would tap tap tap in a way that was annoying to the horse, then help it find the answer if it couldn't within two or three taps, by putting a tiny amount of downward pressure on the halter. this would condition the horse to lower it's head whenever it wants the commotion to stop. this will transfer out in the "real" world as well. if the horse feels scared it will lower it's head and wait for us to remove the scary object whether that is by taking the object away, or backing the horse away, approach and retreat...
ultimately this puts the horse in control of it's own destiny. to empower our horses we need to offer this. the horse needs to be in control of his own destiny. this is how we will make our horse our partner and not our slave.
then we moved to having the horse lower it's head while in motion. this will help improve the posture and was the missing link for me!!! billy knows the lowering the head when he is worried. we've been doing that for about 2 years now, but i had a hard time teaching him this while he was moving if we weren't in the round pen.
to teach it, you walk backwards holding the loop of the halter or the halter rope up by the snap, tap tap tapping on the horse's back (after you have conditioned this at the stand still) and he will look for the release by lowering his head. the hard part is convincing him to keep moving! billy would lower his head but stop his feet. this is just something that will take practice. he would also offer other answers to my request, such as sideways towards, the spanish walk, more sideways towards. i would just keep tapping and then help him with some downward pressure on the halter so he could get the answer right.
the question came up "won't it confuse the horse if we have already used that as a cue for another behavior?"
david said it will at first, but ultimately it comes down to the horse reading our body language effectively.
he talked about power = energy, relaxation and balance. so we won't be able to get the power we are seeking for maintaining gait in the circle game (my issue) or flying lead changes, or proper posture, or proper gaiting (for the gaited horses in the clinic) if we don't have the relaxation. how interesting!!!
i found it so interesting that we can TEACH relaxation. how amazing.