The other day, I was discouraged about some things going on in my life, and I called my sister. My teenaged niece Sam picked up the phone, and I shared my woes with her.
She listened and then said, “Have a piece of toast.”
“I never thought of that,” I said.
“Most people don’t,” she said.
Sometimes, things just don’t work the way we want them to, in life, or with our horses. When it happens while I’m schooling a horse, it could be soreness or illness or boredom or the schedule might need adjusting (too many workdays or not enough). Or the horse might just be having a bad day. They have them, just the way we do.
On those rare occasions when it’s not working with a horse when I think it should, I don’t push it. I find something — the littlest something — to ask for, and when I get it, I reward and end the session. Sometimes, if it’s an older horse, I think I see relief — and surprise — in the horse’s eye. Because I understand that sometimes, people and animals are just having a bad day. Usually the next day, the horse comes out fresh.
At the moment when your horse is resisting, pushing on is a piece of cake. But it might be better to follow my niece’s advice and have a piece of toast.
I was lucky to have been taught this early on by a wise cowboy! He said horses don’t remember that you were asking them something they didn’t get, but they remember if you end on a good point in which the horse does what you want. Sometimes that means walk flat-footed in a circle on a particularly cold and windy day. Or heck, even a round trot circle on a day your horse can’t manage a walk. But it’s always possible to find *something.* With my hard working TB who pushes me to ride a bigger trot, bigger canter with more of a suspension period, more sideways lateral work, etc., making sure to end on those positives has always been very important for keeping him happy. He practices the things which didn’t work as well on his own in between rides until he gets them right anyway… then pushes me to learn to ride them right. 🙂
You’re so right! And so lucky to have that TB of yours, who is such a fine teacher.