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For Endurance or any Discipline


Eric Hought

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A bad habit sneaks into the horse's skills because we allow it. Either we allow it because we are lazy and don't fix it immediately or we allow it unknowingly. Again, an easy example of being lazy or unobservant is the bad habit of the horse not standing when being mounted. How many different examples do you recall of poor mounting habits executed by the horse? You're right, PILOT ERROR.
So, how do we go about correcting a bad habit? The first thing is to analyze the poor habit. What is the nature of the habit? Is it a single habit or is it a combination of several mini habits? Usually it is a combination of poor habits that have merged into one large problem. I begin by defining and refining it down to the simplest mini skill and work on it consistently. Yes, that means every time that it is done wrong, address it, don't overlook it. It may not seem like much is being accomplished at first so be ready to show your patience and observation skills. Don't get frustrated because it will take time. The time it might take to correct, or maintain, may take a month, a year or the rest of the horse's life. Just make up your mind that you are going to wait him out.
How do you know when to reward the horse and how do you do it? It depends upon the skill . If you are working on softness or suppling you reward the horse's try with a release. It may take a long time but you have to wait on the horse. It may be just a little dip of the head or face immediately followed by release of contact. After he has done it a few times you can anticipate the release. You can feel it coming. Now, beat him to the release, that's when the lightness starts coming. By beating him to the release, the length of the signal to be soft becomes shorter. That is when your suggestion becomes more and more subtle, the horse is becoming softer and more responsive. Then, come right back exactly as before, wait and release for the try. Walk along a few minutes on a slack rein and repeat, test just once or twice. Once they start to get the release as a reward, they are ready to continue learning. The effort to be as subtle as possible can be achieved by coming in the back door. By this I mean through the process of extreme subtleness. How soft can you be and how quiet in the request can you be and still be heard by the horse? Their sensitivity can be accentuated by your softness and it will come back to you through their sensitivity. It's a circle in which one begets the other. They are more sensitive than we give them credit for, its just a matter of us being soft enough and receptive enough to pick up on their response.
Don't get anxious and think they are solid because they aren't. Just keep asking lightly and reward the try each time. Ask yourself, "how soft can I be?" This helps to build their self confidence and their trust in you because they know how to get the reward every time. That's from your consistency.



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