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Horse’s Idea – Longer Session, Your Idea – Shorter Session

Yesterday I was scratching my mare Sweet Pea on her rump, something that she loves. I stopped and stepped back, and sure enough, she took a few steps back to me. I scratched her again, stepped back and waited. She stepped back again. We repeated this for about 15 minutes and then I finished by adding a tap, tap to her rump, which then caused her to back up to be scratched.

I was struck by something that I’ve always known instinctively but never really stopped to think about: When a new move or idea comes from my horses, we can play with it (as long as I am continuing to follow along with my horse’s ideas) for sometime, usually until they get bored with it – and the learning will remain.

Contrast that with what happens when I am setting out to show my horse a new idea, that I am originating… typically, we need to play with it only for a few short moments, returning to it, often and as makes sense in that particular session. Learning then comes along in small bits over a few to several sessions – typically.

Why would this be? Well it’s pretty obvious to me. When we present ideas to our horses, there is still a bit of a gap in understanding, even when we are trying to be as clear as we can. Of course, really fast learning does occur when the idea originates with us, but often it takes several sessions. When ideas BEGIN with our horse, and we pick up on it, our mutual understanding of a SAME idea seems to be more clear in our horse’s mind.

Which is why I am a BIG fan of adding my communication and body language to what my horse is currently doing, which is a bit like what I did with Sweet Pea, although there was a 1-2 sequence to it. But… the idea came from her, in other words, I did not ask her to back up to me, or cause it to happen in any way, I just waited, and because she was INSPIRED to back up, she did. This made a lot of sense to her and immediately. In my liberty lessons, one of the many ways that I teach new communication or reinforce previously learned communication, is to ADD it to something the horse is already doing. I’ve known for some time that this is powerful to creating SHARED UNDERSTANDING… and now with my recent thinking on this, I may know why.

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