Sunday, March 2, 2008

Who's in the Driver's Seat?

Another nice sunny Sunday and I was able to ride Bombay and Lostine, and work Gabbrielle in the round pen. While riding I found that both horses were either anticipating what I wanted, or they were reading my mind, because they kept doing what I was thinking before I gave them any physical or verbal cue. This is the phenomenon I mention in my description of this blog site: The way in which horses mirror our thoughts even before we know we are thinking them.

Some people argue that we really are giving the horse some subtle physical cue as we are thinking the thought. I like to believe that horses really can read our minds. It's an encouraging idea that we can be that connected to an animal.

However, I really prefer that the horses wait until I give them the physical or verbal cue. I have a wandering mind and am sometimes just thinking through various exercises I can do with them, but I haven't necessarily made up my mind which exercise to do. It is alarming to have the horses doing those exercises as I am considering doing them.

I recognized that the problem was that I was not giving any physical or verbal cue at the time I was thinking of another exercise. That left the door open for the horse to do what I was thinking. I was spending too much time relaxing as a passenger, rather than giving active direction to the horse.

So I spent most of my riding time giving physical and verbal cues to keep the horse on the current task rather then jumping into whatever task I have in mind for the future. If I was thinking about doing a figure 8 around some obstacles, I held the horse's head straight with equal rein pressure and kept my legs even on both sides so that the horse would continue to move forward in a straight line. Then when I was ready for the figure 8, I laid the outside rein against the neck and squeezed with the inside leg to start the turn.

It is nice to know that I don't have to deliver all these physical cues, but I do want the horses to understand that I am in the driver's seat. They don't decide when to turn, when to back up, and when to change speeds. That's my job.


The People History said...

hhmm well as rather or i should say very very unaclompished rider I can not get past the point of just making them go or stop and even then I must have the "Worst Seat" in the world because I end up with my boys bits black and blue and of course Callie has tried and tried to teach me but I am bloody hopeless . So if your horse knows what your thinking maybe I can catch that trick life would be so much better

All the best

Callie said...

Nice post!

jdp said...

It's funny, you wouldn't think it would be that hard to remember to RIDE the horse, not just be a passenger, but it takes so much focus. I catch myself thinking ahead all the time, and then wonder why we're drifting or doing the 'drunken sailor.'

Mrs Mom said...

I have always said that the horse knows your intention from the moment they see you step into the paddock. So, knowing that it carries over to under saddle as well is both an advantage AND a pain in the butt! ;)

My old Appy and I had such an amazing connection. I would think it, he would do it, and folks would just wonder HOW we did it. I still to this day can not honeslty say I "have the answer" to that one, but boy what a thrill it was! Its hard too, when schooling a hrose for someone else, I have to be careful and NOT allow that to happen-- the owner / rider has to be the one driving (as you say,) and the horse can not rely on my brain alone to give direction. That has been SO hard to learn over the years! I would get phone calls asking how come the horse was looking at them like they were nuts, while I could get them to do what was needed with out visibly DOING anything... LOL

When it comes to horses, there is so much more than meets the eye! ;)

Rising Rainbow said...

And some people think they are stupid animals. Who does that make stupid?? lol

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Steve - I'm not the greatest rider myself. In fact, I flat out stink at times.

Callie - Thanks!

jdp - Riding does take focus, especially when some horses come with automatic pilot or cruise control.

Mom - I'm so glad that you can confirm that the same thing has happened to you.

RR - Sometimes I think my Arabs are smarter than I am.

Twinville said...

Can I just say what a breath of fresh air it is here to read that not everyone is born with the ability to ride and understand horses perfectly without fault?

I've met so many 'horse folk' that act and speak like they are the open bibles of horsemanship.

It's mostly very intimidating to me to be around people like that because I always feel so inadequate.

What a relief reading here that many people still believe that one cannot know everything in regards to horses and that every horse is unique and even relationships with various horse/rider/owner combinations can be so very different.