Holistic Horsemanship – Who trains who?

My horsemanship mentor, Linda Hoover, always says if you are not training the horse then he is training you. Another mentor, Tom Curtain, says you should ride a horse not let the horse take you for a ride. Both of these great horseman and others such as Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman have made me so much more aware of how I interact with my animals and even people in my life.

I have come to believe that I am not so much training my animals but finding out how to help them learn. In return they teach me how they need me to present things in the best way that works for them. For instance, my gelding, Remi, needs lessons broken down into very small chunks and he can’t move on until he masters each part. Yesterday he was having a lot of trouble with a turn on the haunches and his problem was his jaw was tight. I could not help him with the turn until he was able to relax his jaw. Once his jaw was relaxed we could work on him shifting his weight on to his hindquarters  so he could lift his shoulder for the turn. Remi has taught me to take my time with him and let him process each component of a maneuver.

My mare, Cerise, likes to have the whole picture presented when learning something new. She does not like single exercises at all. She is able to work out the individual pieces on her own. My mule, Tess, was never able to learn until I got her focused on me. She would brace in the body and shut down her mind. I found the ground work exercises that Linda Hoover taught us made all the difference. Once Tess realized how good it felt for her to move her feet without a brace she opened up to learning all kinds of new things.

And just like we go to clinics to learn how to train our animals, they collaborate with each other on how to train us. For instance, I just started giving my cats a treat of wet cat food when they come into the house at night to be locked in. Well, word must have gotten to the goats because all of the sudden they stopped going into their pen at night. They all camped outside the gate until I lured them in with food. It took me a few days to scope on to what had happened and of course by then I was already trained. Madalyn

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