Consistency- your friend?!
When we are with our horses, consistency is everywhere.
Feeding time and routine
How we halter them
How we brush them
How we take them to the field
Where we get on and off
How we load them
Usually when we are doing the above we do things unconsciously, without realising that we are already teaching our horses things, simply through doing it consistently.
This happens by doing things over and over again, because it is a daily activity or because that’s how you simply do things.
We might wonder why the horse
Gets frustrated before feeding
Pushes on our space
Doesn’t follow a feel all the time
Sticks to the gate
Where do you feel the “training” starts? Does it start once you are in the arena, when you are sat on your horse or when you get your horse?
I think consistency is such a fantastic way to get our horses to learn something without having to actually “teach” them something in particular.
Horses are very good at anticipating things but I rather think of it as the horse checking in and asking questions. But too much consistency might lead to the horse making assumptions e.g. he assumes that you will feed him at 8.00 because you have been doing that for the past 200 days or the gate is the place is where you get on and off so that must be the place where he will find rest.
We might question why the horse just keeps doing the same thing e.g. stops at the gate or pushes on our space. But we have been doing the same thing over and over again, letting them do something over and over again.
You might be brushing your horse and he might creep towards you. If you don’t notice that and let him do that, he will feel that it is alright to do so. So then when you are playing with him on the ground he starts getting pushy. This most likely occurred because he has been let to that in other situations and now you are going to tell him that it is wrong.
So we need to think about how we can use these opportunities and how can we make the most of these moments to make sure we keep the balance and stay particular.
This may include
Establishing positive habits when haltering
Waiting for the horse to relaxed when feeding or asking him to wait
Looking for the horse to be responsive on the halter
Making sure he is aware of your space
When it comes to the “actual” teaching, consistency is a great way to get a horse to understand a new pattern, signal etc., because the horse will start to see a rhythm and system behind what you are doing.
A simple way to explain this in a teaching frame of mind would be transitions. You might make the transition at A and C, soon the horse will get the idea and he will start to prepare himself and you will be able to do less and less because the horse can see a certain rhythm.
But you would continue this for the next couple of days. To really make sure your horse understands what you are talking about.
This is a great way to help horses that get tense and worry, especially about changes. Because they will know what will come next, they start to relax and the horse can feel successful.
Now and again you can change it up a little to either check if your horse is listening to you or whether he is making assumptions as well as making it a little more fun, keeping your horse guessing. Some horses need a little more variety because they are more likely to get bored after doing the same thing six times. So you could change it up a little but keep the same theme going. For instance when doing transitions you could to the transition a little sooner or later, on a diagonal, on a circle or do some transitions with in the gate.
It’s all about making sure the horse is set up, feels successful and also enjoys the session.
Keep your horse’s mind in mind.