I have heard time and again how training horses takes mass amounts of patience. I never fully understood what this meant until I became an AOT. As someone who very much lacks patience in my every day life, I have to make it a point to tell myself over and over again to have patience with Fiz. It is my job to teach him to understand, not punish him for not understanding.
That said, I had a very trying morning. Cindy requested that I ride him in the full bridle using the new snaffle that I had purchased to try and be easier on his mouth from the one he is currently showing in. She rode him in it Saturday and was iffy on it being the bit for him, and wanted to get my opinion since I hadn’t tried it yet. So, I put him in the bridle and mounted up ready to tackle the world, per my motivational post pre-ride yesterday. I have gotten into the habit of making small goals for each ride over the last year or so, and I try to have a plan every time I get on. I find making small goals keeps me focused on teaching him one thing at a time and not overwhelming him with information to the point where he explodes because he literally has no idea what I am trying to accomplish. That whole patience thing comes into play here because since horses learn by repetition, this can take ride after ride after ride to accomplish a solid understanding.
My goal for this morning’s ride was simply, yield to the curb and be happy in the snaffle. Our full bridle rides lately have needed a lot of warm up and only toward the end resulted in acceptance of the bits. We started off slowly, just walking with a steady feel on the snaffle, and tickling of the curb every few steps. Knowing how to independently work your reins is a must in this situation. This is something that can be practiced at home just holding reins and learning how to move your fingers separately. The training video “Saddleseat Riding Skills” from Smith Lilly’s DVD collection teaches some great bridle handling techniques that offer adjustments without even moving your fingers, also. Actually, check out ALL of Smith’s products, which we have found to be extremely informative. http://www.saddleseathorsemanship.com/store/
It took several trips around walking before Fiz dropped his nose to the tickling, for which he was rewarded with a release of pressure on the reins, a “good boy, good boy” and petting on his neck. He likes this reward. Remember, we all like to hear “attaboy” from time to time. Each time he tried to stick his nose back out, tickling, and each time he yielded to it, same reward. Once the walk was good, we trotted, doing the same exercises. Over and over again, and each time he would stick his nose out I had to fight the urge to become irritated and yank on the reins. I mean, we’ve only been over the SAME thing for the last 25 minutes.
Fighting that urge to lose your patience is something every trainer needs to practice diligently. What would have happened had I yanked my reins, trying to force him to yield and give in? Every reward I had just given him would have been forgotten, and all he remembered would be that punishment for an unwanted behavior. Nothing would have been accomplished because he would have forgotten all the rewards for the desired behavior because I couldn’t keep my patience in check. Take the extra time, ride long enough for your rewards to mean something. Stay the course, as frustrating as it may be, you always stay the course and keep your patience. End your ride on a positive note, when the horse does what you are asking it to do consistently for that session. Build on those little tiny victories each training session and you and your horse will make much larger victories in your progress over time.