A tool and its goal are (too) soon parted!
that you will one day you not need to use them anymore.
With an unending supply of novelty gadgets, training aids and bits of all shapes and sizes, it can be very difficult to make heads or tails of it all.
Now, we’ve all heard the saying “It’s not what you use, it’s how you use it.”
But why are we using it? The answer to this question should always be, to make our horse stronger in mind and body, and more enjoyable to ride.
Regardless of whether we’re talking about dressage whips, halters, snaffle bits, curb bits or spurs, I believe it all boils down to this:
Set attainable goals and use your tools in a way that you will one day you not need to use them anymore.
Too often, we get caught up in the job outside the horse, forget about our training goals and end up using our tools too much, with no progress towards reaching those goals.
While working with Bella–a three year old filly that I have in for training, I was growing tired of fighting for her attention. I knew that if I made her work up a bit of a sweat and only let her rest when her attention was on me, that would get the job done. But the temperature was rising into the upper 90’s, and we were both already working on a decent sweat just standing still. So, I decided to use a rope to aide Bella in making better decisions as to where she puts her attention.
I put my loop around her neck and sent her around the round pen at a nice little trot, making sure the belly of my rope dragged the ground between us. After getting a nice downward transition to a walk, I stepped away and asked her to face me. She completely blew me off. So, I gently picked up the slack in my rope, applied just enough pressure for her to face me and give me her undivided attention. We rested there for a moment, and then I sent her off. Shampoo, rinse, repeat.
Then the magic happened. As I sent her around for the third time, I could see she was already giving me more of her attention. I stepped away asking for her to face me. And she made the decision all by herself. No rope needed! This may sound like a small victory…but it was a victory none the less! Yahoo!
Set small goals and use the appropriate tool to get the job done. Remember, if you’re still heavily relying on your tools, the job’s not yet done. Our goal should always be to have the horse willingly make the right decision when we ask. Make sure you know how to correctly and safely use whatever tools you decide to use, and always give your horse the opportunity to succeed or fail. You can’t fix what you’ve never had the chance to see broken. Sometimes that means putting some slack in those reins and put some trust in your horse.
Stay safe, keep riding and above all, never stop thinking.
Director of Horsemanship Programs