How has your observation been going over the last week? Have you been fighting the urge to get up and do something? Last week I told you to spend some time simply observing your horse at liberty without interacting with your horse or getting distracted. If you didn’t see that article, check it out here. This week I’ll give you some tips on how to up your observation game by actually doing a few things.
Next time you make some time to observe your horse, start with a question you have about your horse or a problem you are having with your horse. Below are a few examples:
Focus your observation on this question.
If you are interested in how your horse responds to pressure, look for forms of pressure in your horse’s environment such as other horses, scary noises, etc. Identify different pressures your horse is experiencing and note how he responds. Look at how he might tense his muscles, move his body, or change his mental state. After enough observation you will begin to see a pattern of how your horse naturally responds to pressure.
You can then use this information to help you when you are working with your horse. If your horse generally responds to pressure by moving into it, you know that that is going to be his tendency when you are working with him. You can then pay special attention to make sure that your horse is moving away from pressure so that as you put all the building blocks together he understands what you are asking. If on the other hand your horse generally shuts down to pressure, you can adjust your training techniques to use less pressure and wait for him to figure out that he doesn’t need to shut down.
Although this is all basic stuff that you can also observe while working with your horse, I generally find that people have trouble analyzing what is happening when they’re in the middle of a session. Taking yourself out of the equation so that you can just be an observer allows you to see the whole picture. Not only does your influence change how the horse might naturally react, it also leads to a biased opinion. If you are observing you can see exactly what pressure or external stimuli affected a change in the horse. However if you are part of the situation you might think you did something that you didn’t actually do. Therefore you might be attributing the horses reaction to something that didn’t take place or you might think that the reaction was random when in fact it was directly related to something you didn’t know you did.
Observation also keeps you from being emotionally attached to the outcome because you aren’t a part of the situation. You don’t have any attachment to how your horse responds to pressure, picks up the canter, or comes down to a halt. When you are working with your horse you might have an idea of how you want your horse to perform those movements. When he doesn’t respond like you wanted, you can get emotional instead of assessing the situation and correcting. If you first observe the horse to see what he naturally does you can go into the situation with a better understanding of how you need to approach it and how you might be able to change your behavior to get a better result.
If when you are observing the horse you are still having trouble figuring out the answer to your question, try to take a deep breath and meditate on your question. Sometimes we think too much and it gets in the way of our intuition. Use your time of observations to watch the horse and let your mind wander a little bit. Don’t rush the process or get into your own head.
Try this out next time you have a chance to sit and observe your horse. I guarantee you will learn at least one thing that you didn’t know.