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 Keep It Simple

Preparation Concepts


Eric Hought

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You Lead – If….

This topic focuses on techniques used to prepare a horse to accept the handler, rider or owner as leader. Every clinician has slightly different techniques to accomplish this objective. When a person studies their different viewpoints and perspectives, similar objectives emerge. They are all working toward the same goal: establishing leadership through the horses natural herd instinct.

My mare Plenty is a good example. She was ridden as a 3-5 year old mainly in a shank bit. During that period she was cooperative, but I wasn’t getting the feel in her face and body. So I started over. I replaced the shank bit with the previously used snaffle and began to review initial suppling skills with her. In the process it became essential that I learn the ground skills necessary to become the leader. To learn, I watched, listened and practiced the skills I observed being taught by clinicians.
There in lies the difficulty: choosing the appropriate clinician’s techniques to follow and learn. Remember, all are working towards the same outcome, so how do we choose? Look for one who most closely relates to your philosophy of working with the horse and who keeps it simple.

One clinician might teach a group of games, another analyzes every step, another seems to present it as magic, another speaks as though on the inside with all the others. Finally, someone breaks it down to very simple skills, actually telling you how to teach them. He gives specific examples of problems you may encounter and how to fix them. This final clinician fits my style because he “keeps it simple.”
Once a clinician is chosen that best fits your style, learning the method and preparing your horse can begin. Most clinicians have certain tools they use as an aid. These may be important but should not be looked at as the “gotta have this” kind of tool. There are similar tools to choose from so select the one that best fits you. A simple example is the rope halter. Study the particular item and decide for yourself.

In my case, I combined a variety of strategies from several different clinicians. It paid off dramatically. The areas of my greatest growth were suppling, groundwork and slow hands. As these areas began to show degrees of accomplishment, I began to recognize an almost frightening consequence. Plenty had decided to trust me as leader. That was trust. She had placed a huge responsibility upon me because, if I didn’t protect that trust, she would close the door. She basically had said, “Okay, you are the leader, so be fair and keep it simple. If you don’t, I won’t follow.”
I have been working to understand the horses behavior. It is so easy it’s difficult. Things are either black or white, never gray. The horse is an animal of prey with the mental maturity of a three year old child. They recognize our honesty, they mirror us, they want to be comfortable and on and on.

It took about eight months for Plenty’s change to be obvious. She was ridden an average of four days per week. I rode her everyday when I was home.
Fortunately, there is no rush to complete our goal. I would guess in another year of slowly polishing all the parts, she may be ready to show. I’m not positive that once everything is in place she will have the proper style. I will just have to wait and see. One thing I am certain of, she will tell me the right pace and I will not force skills upon her. I will just have to wait and.........

Keep It Simple.

 Prepare to Prepare


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