The majority of my work is focused on teaching people skills to be better horseman. Part of the horse training process is teaching the owner to interact with their horse that will encourage the good skills and behavior to continue. I help people improve their horsemanship skills as well as their life skills. I had a parent make a comment the other day that had me really thinking about how I approach training horses vs. teaching people. To my surprise, it really didn’t differ too much.
At the start of every training session with the horses, I have an exercise I do where essentially I ask “where do you want to go today?” In the beginning, the horses are drawn to the barn, the other horses, the gate, basically anywhere “work” usually isn’t involved. That is where we start our work for the day. Doing this over and over, the horses learn to be content wherever we go to do our work for the day. I started using this same psychology working with kids. Some children are quiet, timid, lazy or don’t like a lot of attention initially. Those kids tend to “rather go” on a trail ride. So for those kids, I adapt the lesson I want to teach while on a trail ride. For other kids that want to do the cool stuff, they usually would rather be in the arena because that where you get to go fast!
I found that asking kids where they want to go, especially the quiet, shy kids, they start to get confident about interacting with me and then begin to become confident with receiving instruction. They build their skills and abilities without feeling pressured to learn. So, one of the parents stayed a little longer than usual for her child’s lesson. Every time, after the initial “hi, how are you? How’s school, etc.?” I ask them what they want to do today. The parent said “its your job to tell them what you are doing today, not the child’s.” And yes, on the surface, it is my job to provide the structure and deliver information, but this concept goes deeper than that.
Working with problem horses, I have found that the more you make the horse do what you want to do, the more the horse will tend to protest and “behave badly”. Ray Hunt said “First you go with them, then they go with you, then you go together.” First I go with the person/horse, then I provide the instruction, then we can work together without resentment or fear and actually enjoy the learning process. Until the horse or person can be happy working in anyplace, I ask the question every time “where do you want to go”.