This came to me via a friend of a friend type thing (Fran is a friend of my mom's). Written by Fran Odom with Odom's Mountain Horse Ranch. She wrote this back in 2006 and it was something so profound that I saved it at the time. I rediscovered it today and am sharing with you. Read it once, read it again, then read it one more time. There is some VERY deep and interesting thoughts here. Emphasis in blue are mine:
I had a new understanding come to me today. In working Hijo in the round pen, I noticed we had a long way to go. His turns to the inside were poor. When cued, he would stop straight, look at me, sometimes decide I was indicating to reverse, step around on his front feet and move off.
My first analysis determined that his move was not on his hinds stepping under, therefore I was getting nothing from him. This disclosed that somehow, some way I needed to drive him into the movement so that the momentum did not cease as he reversed to the inside. In observing his way of going I noticed it was haltingly always prepared to stop. Interpreting that attitude into future activities meant he would not go when needed nor would he stop when needed.
I decided to push for a canter – until he believed in me. It took a long time and many stops and goes before it came. But in the end the side that was so darn difficult indeed did a lovely wide inside turn never halting the movement. That was very pleasing. He learned it and repeated it well thereafter. However….
Going in the opposite direction has ALWAYS, since day one, been an issue to this horse. He did/does not like the look of life on that side. At any given moment he will attempt to turn and reverse. His inside turn is naturally inclined due to this preference; the goal was to keep him moving. He could make 7 or 8 laps and should I move an eyelash he would give it the old college try, even considering going over the top rail. He really didn’t want to go that direction.
Some of my exercises would be to ask for the outside turn instead (because the inside was his preference) and then an inside and continue forward (a 360).
As I observed his consistent effort to choose his own change in direction, I began to think about what affect I would have on him if I stopped too soon OR if I did not correct him until he became comfortable in the direction I requested.
The answer to that thought is fairly profound to me at this point. It may sound too simple. This horse needed to believe in me. Over and over he tested mostly because he didn’t feel comfortable on one side. He needed to not only do it but believe he could do it. When he would stop and try to reverse, his correction and being set back on course by me was the support he needed. For some reason as he went round and round, he believed it would end because he couldn’t do it without end (this type of belief the horse holds is that devil named Resistance). It was a responsibility of mine to stay long enough while he did it until……..
Until he began to feel well maybe I CAN do it… He tells himself and me his change of thought by licking his lips, stretching his neck, relaxing in the movement, taking direction and returning to it without stress or argument. He begins to get the feel of that direction and finding it comfortable.
The part I play in it is a commitment to him both by staying with him and being there for him when he thinks he must fail (quit) and pushing him onward until it no longer is an issue. In so doing he knows that I know his every moment of “weakness” wherein I made him strong. I was right there every single time and not once did I let him make that mistake. He can believe in me because I believed in him. It is only through this work and support can the horse grow in confidence. ~ C here: Go read that one again.
We humans think that when they do it wrong, we are being kind to not notice. Instead if we notice and correct it, the horse is comforted by that act. His comfort is knowing you are right there every second to support him.
I never viewed this effort as making a weak animal strong. I never realized the depth of the instinct to resist and hold onto an idea of not giving in. I now see the “do what you gotta do until you can get out of there!” resistance.
I never understood how letting the horse not do it perfectly was undermining his entire outlook and confidence. Because as long as he does not feel himself let go and stop resisting, he is learning how long it takes to hold out.
Back when I successfully got his GOOD inside turn on the difficult side, I stopped to allow him a little breather. During that time I asked him to come in to me. He couldn’t. After he worked through going the other direction without interruption, when I stopped him he came right in. The round pen is very revealing if you open your eyes and see what really is happening.
I still do not feel that I expressed all of the lesson I learned today. It’s pretty deep to see the difference between fake it and give it all. Had Jerry Tindell (Fran's instructor) not stayed so long with that red horse in the round pen, I would not have seen what was necessary to know when the give happened. The impact on the horse must really be something for it to experience. I know that if Sport had experienced all this in the beginning it would not have taken him so long to get this far.
I am a fairly stubborn person. I learned to hold out. Period.
To change, to soften, to release an idea, to reconsider, to try, those are not easy to do when holding out is the way of life. I can understand the lifted load a horse must feel when he has gone through the process. Once through the process he learned the answer. Now he holds the answer and can use it every time he is asked and use it with confidence! That must be empowering!!!
Well I am finished trying to explain now. I hope that something I said held meaning…and perhaps opened a small door for someone.