I spent half the day yesterday working on articles with the editor of a magazine and she had an idea for an article, which I thought was fantastic—what to do when riding a strange horse for the first time. As we talked about the issue and outlined the article, I started thinking about compromising with horses. Although compromise may be a positive attribute for mediators, politicians and car dealers, it is rarely a good idea with horses.
As I've said on many occasions, there is really only one way to start a conversation with a horse and it goes like this, "Horse, this is your Captain speaking. And everything else that follows is a direct order from me to you. My job, as Captain, is to make all the decisions, chart the course and watch out for the greater good of my crew and the universe. Your job, as my horse, it is be first mate; to carry out my orders exactly as stated, to wait patiently and attentively for the next directive and to be quiet and content in the umbrella of my leadership."
I won't give away the details of the article on riding strange horses; you'll be able to read it in about 6 months in America's Horse. But I thought about this subject of compromise all day yesterday, as we rode. Horses are SO keen to your level of awareness and intention—way keener than most humans will ever be. Any time you interact with a horse, whether a known horse or a new one, on the ground or in the saddle, you are establishing a relationship with him and he is forming an opinion of you—whether you are dominate or he is, whether or not you are a capable leader and whether or not he has to be obedient or if compromise is an option.
If , in the first few minutes of my ride, when my horse is forming this critical first impression of me, I direct my horse to the rail, and he says, "I'd really rather make a little circle here in the middle," and I say, "No, I want to you be next to the rail," and then we compromise on a path that is neither on the rail or in the middle—I've just taught my horse that I am not the Captain and he can argue or negotiate with my decisions. What would Captain Kirk think? Here's the thing most people miss: your horse knows when you are compromising-- you may think you're fooling him, but you're not.
If I tell my horse to go on this specific path at this particular speed, he does not have the option to alter course in any way. If I find my self constantly telling him to speed up or slow down, he is disobedient and needs correction—usually a spanking will do. I shouldn't be constantly cueing him to do something—once I tell him to do it, he should keep doing it until I tell him to stop. If he doesn't, he's making an unauthorized decision , to slow down or speed up; one unauthorized decision that goes uncorrected, will lead to others. One harsh correction is worth a thousand nags.
The main difference between a pro and nonpro rider is in leadership (authority), timing and correction. The pro rider doesn't even have to think about it—if the horse varies off course even with only one little part of his body (say he's not bent correctly) or if there is the slightest change in rhythm or speed, he gets an instant and meaningful correction. I have to do this frequently with Dually but most observers wouldn't see me do it.
Enough said; I think you get the picture! Try to ride your horse with authority and give him the responsibility to do the right thing—correct him if he doesn't. Don't get co-dependent with him and feel like you have to carry him around and constantly tell him over and over again that he should really be doing what you asked of him.
Today is Friday. Man did this week go fast! Once I finish up my end-of-the-month writing obligations, I'll head down to the barn to wash, clip and spiff up Diggs for the cutting show tomorrow. It's supposed to be realyl hot today, so a cool bath will feel good for both of us. Maybe I'll get to tan my white legs (occupational hazard). Rich didn't ask me to wash his horse (but I know he'll appreciate it) and yes, I could ask one of my staff to do it, but I actually enjoy making horses look pretty. Besides, no one else does it precisely the way I like to, so I'd just as soon do it myself! Tomorrow is a big day here in Chaffee County-- we have the cutting show in the morning then we'll head to the county fair to support the 4H livestock auction, then the rodeo and dance. Yehaw!
Enjoy the weekend!