When teaching our horses, we have to consider their character. My horse Weto is a rather slow thinking horse and needs time to process. When I expect a too quick answer, he tends to shut down and get stressed. He also forgets things which I didn’t ask in a while. He does very well with longer sessions and repeating things often and at regular intervals. Other horses would get bored with this, but for him it’s how his stays confident and open.
Minor, on the other hand, gets irritated when I repeat too often. When he already gave me the right answer, and I ask again, he first tries to offer a different reaction, which might seem as if he didn’t understand in the first place, and if I keep asking, he gets frustrated. With him, I have short sessions, don’t repeat the same thing when the answer was what I was looking for, and I take care that I always add something new to keep him mentally engaged. Right now, we started work in hand, which I do with him at the beginning of each session for a couple of minutes. The longer I practice, the more he tries to come up with “creative” answers, so I keep it brief. This way, he learns very fast and stays relaxed.
My Nazir is again different. He has an amazing memory and never forgets anything. But he also doesn’t like to do too many new things and change things around. He does best with a daily routine of an intensity which is not too challenging but has also some new elements, so I would say he is a bit of a mix of Weto and Minor. I also don’t repeat new things with him too often, because if I do, he gets bored and rather looks for his own entertainment, or leaves me. Sessions with him are short and he likes to have a certain flow to them, without too many breaks.
I had an online lesson this week in which the horse got anxious when my student asked for the same thing too often. The homework was to teach an aid for inside leg. The horse understood it quickly but the student kept asking, so some anxiety arose. The solution was (and I hope it continues to be), to use the newly learned aid in the work and to balance the horse better with it. That way the horse can see a sense in the aid. This might be counter-intuitive to what we would like to do, because we would like to practice the new aid and be sure the horse really understood it.
Sometimes it requires a bit of trial and error what is the best way to learn for your horse. And it might not be the way you would prefer and that fits your own learning type. This makes horse training so interesting but can also be challenging! And, of course, they cannot just tell us “Oy, I already gave you the answer, what more to you want?” But they show their concerns in different ways, which might not be so easy to read and sometimes it’s not so straight forward what the exact cause is. Are you giving the aid in a place where the horse doesn’t understand it? With too little or too much energy and intention for this horse? Do you repeat too often? Or not often enough? Did you give enough time to think? Did you miss the first, subtle try?
That’s also why we should take care to not correct the horse too early or even reprimand him, because often they just show us they don’t understand or that it makes them nervous. It’s better to always give our horses a lot of leeway and in case of doubt, rather stop and think instead of adding more pressure. You might just have to change the strategy and then the horse will understand and stay relaxed.
Picture of Minor’s second try for work in hand led from the outside of the bend 🙂