Friday 14 June 2013

Diplomatic riding!

Apart from just enjoying hacking out in the lovely weather recently, my thoughts about riding have been fairly focussed on the whole 'non-confrontational' thing that I mentioned in an earlier post. 

Amanda and Elvis (pictured below) provided a nice example a few days ago. We were out on a hack, horses and humans relaxed and enjoying it, although Elvis was occasionally distracted or excitable - it was the first time he'd been up this particular track in ages and there was lots going on. At one point, Elvis and Amanda were walking on the verge, and Elvis suddenly decided he wanted to turn right - great decision Elvis, to the right was a deep ditch then a near vertical slope! 

It's easy to get into an argument at this point.You might feel unsafe,  frustrated or unsure about what to do next. Pretty soon you could be employing hands, legs, stick in a confusion of pressure to make the pony do what you want. Now, in fact Elvis has only had an idea about going and playing in the ditch at this stage, Amanda is his teacher - do you want your teacher to get all flustered and heavy whenever you have an idea she doesn't like? Good way to inhibit learning, that's for sure. 

Instead, Amanda chose the non-confrontational, calm approach - the ideal teacher. Hey, Elvis, how about we stop instead? Then I can give you a scratch. Elvis is happy to do this. Could you put your head straight? No problem. How about we take a few steps forwards? By this time, Amanda has Elvis's attention fully back with her, with no struggle, he's forgotten all about what distracted him in the first place, and he happily turns left down the bank. And maybe Elvis has learned that when he follows Amanda's ideas instead of his own, good things happen.