So to follow up on my last post which was all about my belief that you should ask a horse rather than just make demands of a horse, I feel like I need to follow up with when exactly I tell.
Obviously to make that partnership and to start getting horses more responsive to what I’m asking, I ask first (sometimes a second time) and escalate up into making demands. Easy pressure that they’ll learn to appreciate turns into a less friendly moment where I tell them what I want, how I want it, and when the need to do it (aka “do this now or you’re going to really hate me in a minute”).
Sometimes it’s hard to get into that “tell mode” because the horse doesn’t understand the question, or they don’t know the answer yet. This is particularly true of horses that went through no formal training (horses that were “trail broke” would be an example of this) or young horses that haven’t yet reached that level of education yet. In these situations, it’s so important to ask, ask, ask with increasing pressure rather than just making demands. Just as important to also remember to praise like hell when they do what you want them to.
So how, and when, do you determine when it’s appropriate to jump into the telling phase? I think that every horse is different, which means that every horse is going to require a different level of these sort of cues. Bella I really have to focus on pressure and release, I can’t bother her too much otherwise she gets very frustrated and isn’t shy about telling me. With Skipper I tend to bother him fairly actively because I’m teaching him things right now rather than just asking him for something he already knows and he’s unwilling to do. Right now Skipper’s struggling to turn on a wide circle, he’s fighting against me when I ask him to bend and soften his jaw. We’re working through some heavy shit and poor dude is so tense about it that I’m really having to focus on doing my best to guide him easily without getting frustrated that he hasn’t gotten the concept yet (and yes, I will admit that sometimes I get frustrated).
With any horse I ride I will skip all nice asking steps and go straight into telling for two very big reasons.
- If what the horse is doing endangers me.
- If what the horse is doing endangers themselves.
Bella ignoring me and being an ass can usually go on for a bit of time before I throw in the towel on being nice (which I did yesterday) and with Skipper right now if he’s seriously fighting it at the trot we’ll simply drop down to the walk and work at it in another way (which also happened yesterday). Both horses will get asked before they get told because I’m constantly aware that to build up a partnership takes time and to destroy it all can take merely seconds.