‘Shaking it up’ with our equine friends

I have been telling you about the intelligence of several horses that I have read about and researched.  Now it’s time to tell you what I really love to do with my horses.  I love to work them on their tricks, riding, and I also love to work with natural horsemanship skills.

When I moved to a county fairgrounds boarding facility a couple of years ago, I met a person who was more into natural horsemanship.  She was getting a lot of training from very good, well-known trainers. I started learning a few things from her, and I found that the more I learned the more I loved to be more of a natural trainer rather than more of the conventional trainer.  I do more training on the ground that helps me build a great relationship with my horse.  I was beginning to see what it was like to build such a great relationship with trick training, but now I can even add more of that ground work to get my horse even more in tune with me, which makes tricks even more spectacular to watch.

Horse-human interaction (Photo via Wikipedia)

Horse-human interaction (Photo via Wikipedia)

With this kind of training, I started to read what my horses were feeling by watching their ears and tail swishing — in other words, their body language.  A lot of natural horsemanship is getting into horse psychology, which will help me to get even more in tune with my horse and my trick training and shows.  I love the idea and thinking of relationship first, where we put our horses before anything that could endanger our friendship with them.

I have found that horses love variety, just like humans do.  There was one time that my grey mare Cheyenne did not want to make a basket, since I have taught her to play basketball.   But my new friend/instructor told me to shake up the routine a little and give the horses more of a variety with their tricks; make the tricks a little different so the horses don’t get bored with the same continual routine.  It worked!  I asked Cheyenne to take the ball and put it in the bucket, on the table, or just anything that is not routine.  Horses don’t like to do the same thing continually over and over again.  However, if we give our horses variety and teach them different ways to enjoy our company, we can have a considerably amusing new relationship with our horses.

It is quite a new perspective to think that horses are a lot like people in the fact that they don’t like the same routine time after time.  There is such a thing as “ring sour” horses, where they do walk, trot, canter or lope every time a rider gets on their back.  I know my Arabian mare Gypsy shows signs of being “ring sour” if I ride her that way too long.  So people need to remember that horses need variety.  Instead of always riding in circles, try winding around poles, or trotting on the bottom part of the arena, loping on the left side, stop and turn on the right side, etc.  Make it more entertaining for the horse.

So let’s say you want the horse to put the jolly ball into a small basketball hoop.  You train them day after day.  Eventually Cheyenne, being a smart horse, tests the boundaries and doesn’t pick up the ball.  What should I do?  There was one time I made her sit there until she picked up the ball and she didn’t.  I waited for about 30 minutes, she still didn’t do it.  After that, I sought advice from the other trainer.  Shaking up the routine did the trick.  Cheyenne does so much better and loves her tricks so much more.

Another thing to remember is that when you are working with your horse, you need to be calm and assertive with them.  I have to admit there were times I got too demanding, and if it didn’t happen I lost my temper.  That did not happen that often because Cheyenne would not do well on her tricks if I did that.  Gypsy is a classic example here, because if her rider is feeling fear, she reflects that by acting more fearful.  If her rider is irritated or angry, Gypsy will be irritated.  Gypsy is a mirror of her leader.  Cheyenne is much the same way with her tricks.  So as a leader we should reflect the leadership our horses need.  We need to be a confident, assertive, benevolent leader.

So while I am in full swing engaging in tricks with horses, I need to remember that Cheyenne will do whatever I ask her of her as long as she trusts me and as long as I am a calm and benevolent leader.  I have confidence with my horse.  I can imagine her doing it in my head and don’t imagine otherwise.  Be forever patient with her and allow her the time it takes to learn and absorb the new trick.  Sometimes it takes a considerable amount of time to grasp a new trick.  I need to allow her that time.  I need to keep this focus, and above all spend enjoyable time to play trick games with my horses. It all helps me to reach my goals.

Here is a video of another horse, showing some of the things I am working on, but this horse is a good example of where I am heading with Cheyenne.  I am not too far from this.

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