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The Hazel Tree by Julia Debski

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by Julia Debski

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Monday, June 20, 2011

A Learning Way- In the Saddle and Getting There...

Q. Rider Attitude. "I strongly believe that a rider's attitude is more important than his or her raw skill. The best technical rider in the world will limit a horse's potential if his or her attitude doesn't recognize and honor the horse's individuality or isn't flexible enough to work with the horse." -Linda Tellington-Jones
What is your opinion of a rider's attitude?

Q. Difficulty with bridling/won't accept the bit. What do you think causes this? Is it entirely the human's fault? What to do?

Q. Cinchy/Girthy- Why in your opinion? Does that make sense? 

Q. Won't stand still for mounting- Same old same old. What do you think? What to do?

My opinion of a rider's attitude, or any person even just being with a horse, makes a huge amount of difference. I think it does go deeper than attitude though - it's not just the emotions that you're feeling as the present, in response to something, but it also matters who you are and how all of the levels of your emotions are. (From email one.) Example: You have heard of Chuck Martin. He met a lady who had horses, and abruptly asked to meet them. He has recently found a love for them, not really riding them, just being with them, stroking with them, and walking around with them - which is just fine. The woman took him to the horses, but warned him not to count on one of them coming up, as it had been abused my men and hated all of them, and bit and struck people "randomly" when they weren't doing it. He said, "Oh that's fine, we'll see." When he approached the fence, one of the horses galloped over to him, stuck its head in his hand, and nickered at him over and over, then began to lightly touch him all over with his nose, just ever so carefully pressing it against his cheeks, the top of his head, his shoulders, his arms.... As if he were kissing him. Chuck giggled to himself, then turned to the woman and asked if this was one of her friendlier horses. She stood, dumbstruck. She responded that that was the horse who would not stand to be touched, who hated men, who bit people and struck them... Chuck is an amazingly happy man, with a giggling outlook on life, with humor all over, and who is a very sweet man. He does laugh a lot, he loves to make people happy, and he's like a big hilarious teddy bear. The horse loved him... because of who he was. In comparison, I have met "professional" trainers who horses will run away from, strike out at, and find any way to get away from or make miserable. These people were very cold and only wanted to take advantage of both the horse and the people involved.

Bridling and bits.... Hmm. Well, in something like Cherish's situation, I won't ever ride her in a bit again. Simply because of what she was brave enough to show me, what she felt comfortable enough to show me, something that she had never shared before... and then her anticipation of what I would say in response. To tell the truth, I cried afterward, but only inside... because of the physical exhaustion that came from it. I promised her that I would never let a bit in her mouth again - not just a simple promise, a true, connection promise, with the ancient words. This can never be broken. And I will make sure that it never is. And, what point would there be in riding in a bridle, if I don't need one?

When they have difficulty accepting the bit, it is all because you want it to happen to much. In wanting it to happen too much, you actually are beginning to have the hint of force in you. This ruins all of it. Have the ultimate goal of getting the horse to bite the bridle, or of getting the bridle to touch the horse's back or something. Of course, the ultimate goal would be to get it on with them comfortable and confident, but you must forget the goal the moment that you step onto the farm - in fact, you must act like the goal was never even there. If you were to have the goal, the horse would not try to trick you, but they would know that you wanted them to do that they were uncomfortable. You are only to ever put the bridle on the horse once they are comfortable and confident. How do you make them comfortable and confident with the bridle? Well, it will vary for each horse. The main thing is you. You have to figure out how you need to be for each horse. I won't be able to advise you on that, because it would depend solely on the present, but keep this in mind, for it is the most important thing. NEVER put the bridle on the horse when the horse is uncomfortable, unconfident, or against it. Then all will be ruined and you will be taking the independence of the horse away by putting it on, denying their wish, and denying their discomfort. "It doesn't matter, the bridle is safe." It's not a matter of whether or not its safe. The more you prove to the horse that you will not cross the line, that you will allow them their complete independence, the less they will doubt you, and the more comfortable they will be with you. It's not a matter of crossing the line to get what you want, it's a matter of staying on the line all the time so that the line is not even there - because if you always give the horse complete independence, how can you  ever reach a point where you take it away? The horse is already far too independent and beautiful if you make a small mistake that you would be forgiven easily, but expected to never do it again. Trust me, it will become habit to give independence freely.

Difficulty with bridling and not accepting the bit is not a "difficulty" - it's just another fight and plea for independence, for respect from you, for understanding, for understanding how they are afraid when you are putting all of these things on them and how they do not want to be restrained for them. Once you prove to the horse that you will never, ever restrain them, they will have absolutely no reason to fear the bridle. So yes, it is absolutely the human's fault.

What to do? Give your horse full independence. Until then, I can advise nothing for you.

Cinchy and girthy is the same thing as bridling. Independence, restraints, what they know can happen when they are ridden, being forced to submit and restrained from their freedom and independence. Eventually, forcing these things over and over gets absolutely worse. To the point of where it's almost impossible to do anything with your horse.

Won't stand still for mounting is the same. They know what will happen when they ride them, and if they like it, they'll stand for you, if they don't, they won't. There is the occasion where I will be getting on Cherish and she will go, ears pricked forward, stepping ahead. This is not because she does not enjoy it, it is simply because she enjoys it so much that she cannot wait. She tells me to get on while she walking, and then we break into a trot. We may canter on, or we may stop, either way. If we stop, she'll reach her face back and touch my foot, shake her head in joy, and graze.

Thank you to Kara Cumberton. Follow her blog here. 

Next Time: A Learning Way-Biting & Cribbing

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