Monday, May 30, 2022

Giving the Horse a Pathway to Solve Problems, Part 2

by Mary Gallagher

I’ve been continuing to experiment with finding fun ways to help my horses in training solve their own problems and change habits.

First off, variety in your training keeps the horse engaged and learning on multiple levels. Even better, using real world exercises on the ground that set up the horse to deal with their own issues gets positive results far faster than schooling from the saddle. In this video, I help a green mare with the habit of ‘swapping her leads behind’ find a better way, with minimal input from me. Were I to correct the same issue through riding….let’s just say we’d be at it a while.
This way, we were able to set her up for success in her canter, and then move on to strengthening her diagonals in the trot transition. It flowed naturally, and we both had a great time and felt successful (if I do say so).

In my last video, I had this mare work at her transitions with cavalettis. This time, I use a small hill on our horsemanship “playground” to get her to further strengthen her canter, then improve her trot diagonals in the downward transition. Natural obstacles offer a lot of benefits, such as fresh perspective and new, fun challenges*.  I’m just there as support.

The exercise: Starting her circle on the flat, we get the canter, which takes her up the hill to a natural opportunity to transition to trot. After early high spirits, with repetition, she settles into figuring out how to carry herself best when topping the hill and facing the downward slope. It’s great to watch a smart horse sort out their feet and make it work.
Using the intelligence of the horse in this way to work on improvements, introduces a kind of puzzle learning for the horse, which smart ones love. You can think of it as ‘rewriting old programs’, which is certainly the case when the horse commits to a better way of doing things. I think I’m rewriting some of my old programs, too! And keeping it fresh with some wonderful horses.

*An example is the video “Using Trees to Help Your Horse Find the Feel”.

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