We are never teaching a horse to do anything they don’t already know how to do.
We may be teaching them to do it when asked. Or showing them how to do it using their body more effectively. But the horse can move, on their own, far better than they can with us sitting on their backs.
I was listening to a podcast the other day as two very skilled horsemen talked about how the best thing they ever learned was to get out of the horse’s way. Deep down I know this. In reality, I always have contact on the reins. I like to think I’m not hanging on their mouths, just helping. There are many things we all like to think in life, that doesn’t make them true.
I’m riding quite a bit at the moment. Checking cows, sorting pairs, nice training type horseback work. Things where I can take it slow, set my horse up right, then let go and allow him to do it on his own. A perfect opportunity to put “staying out of their way and letting them do the job” to work. Added to this I can click and reward Rusty when he does an exceptionally good job. These are quickly working together to develop him into a cow horse who will not only do as asked but who understands the goal and will work towards it on his own.
When we have to get up the narrow lane past cows and calves to get them turned back the other way, he turns his head to the outside, carefully not making eye contact. When we have to do this at more speed he isn’t dropping his hindquarters and spinning after the cow, not yet. But I’m also asking him not to. It’s still icy and slick out there. When we’re bringing one cow along through the bigger corrals, he is starting to hold a line and work her when she turns back at us. He will trail her to the gate almost completely on his own, just a few small adjustments from me when really needed.
He gets a click and reward every time a cow goes through a gate. last year that resulted in him taking one through on his own after I had stepped off.
There’s a difference between a horse who can understand and work towards a goal and one who will respond to cues. I’m not saying he is a super cow horse. He doesn’t get ridden enough to hardly make him competent. He is a trustworthy partner who will put his mind to getting the job done. That is worth way more to me than a horse who will respond better than him to cues but whose mind isn’t engaged.
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