Training today’s horse

 Today Weto was very distracted. It was a rather cold and windy day and short snow showers came and went. Bushes and trees were moving, a squirrel jumped from bush to bush, a pheasant was making a ruckus close by, some birds looked for worms under a pile of old leaves. People and dogs walked by the street, a heavy truck or two passed by.

There was a lot going on, and Weto had a hard time to let go of what was happening and could not focus on our work. 

I don’t think that’s a problem. On a day like today, I don’t expect him to have the same focus he usually has. Maybe he didn’t sleep well, maybe something got him worried earlier and he didn’t let it go yet. 

What do I do on a day like today?

I throw away the plan I had for this day. Then I try to be aware of what he is aware of. I’m standing there with him and I hear the wind in my ears and I feel the cold air on my face. I see the bushes and trees move, I observe the squirrel and the birds, I see the people and trucks pass by. I hear the noise of a car alarm in the distance. I realise that things seem to be in motion and it’s hard to find stillness.

I focus on my breathing and take long breaths in and out. Weto starts to breathe deeper as well, then he blinks and has a link and chew. I tell him he’s a good boy.

We stand like this for about 20 minutes. Among the wind, the moving bushes, the animals, the people and cars, I am there with him and I’m aware of what is happening. Then I start to focus on my breathing and the stillness inside me. I feel my center. I let thoughts and the wind go by. Weto takes a long, snorting breath out, he turns to look at me. Now we are in this spot together, present of our surroundings and present of each other. We breathe in and out together. 

Weto breathes out again and starts to walk. I walk with him, matching his steps. Right, left, right, left. He stops to look at something, I stop and look as well. What is it? In the moment I realise it’s a woman in a red coat walking by the fence of the property, Weto relaxes again, has another deep breath, and continues to walk. I walk beside him. I slow down my steps, and Weto slows down as well. He is more aware of me now and starts to tune in to the space which is “us”. 

We had a short training session in hand after that. Just some bending for relaxation, some trot and a few trot/walk/ halt transitions. 

On a day like today, it’s easy to create tension by insisting on my plans and failing to work with the horse I have today. I would have been able to push my agenda, because Weto is listening very well to the aids and he knows what to do. But he would only listen with “half an ear” and there would be some tension. I would basically tell him “I don’t care how you are doing, we are following the plan”. Our relationship might have gotten a tiny dent then. Next day, the wind might have stopped and Weto would be back to his usual self. I might not notice a change in him. But next time it’s windy or he has a hard time to focus, he might remember that I’m not aware of how he is doing in this kind of situation and might become spooky. If I do not address it then, there could be more and more spooky days. I might want to buy a calming supplement after a while…

Each day is different and on each day, I try to see where my horses are at and to take it from there. It’s not always easy to forget my plans, especially when the last sessions were so great. But to me, the relationship with my horses is much more important than what I accomplish that day or this week.

We can only train the horse how is he today, not how he was yesterday or how he will be tomorrow. Each day is a new day.

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