I’ve been quiet for a few days, because things have not been going my way at the barn! I know I can’t record a manicured version of training, but I also can’t stand hating how a lesson went and then having to write all about how much I hated it. It didn’t seem productive or fun. Now we are in a happy place, and I can look back on the last few days and see where Comfort and I went wrong.
- Comfort had too many sessions in a row that were a lot of hard work
- I was impatient and demanding
- I didn’t communicate enough and wasn’t willing to be very flexible
More fun/relaxed time. Always end on a good note. Don’t go overboard – short and sweet. Put in the extra work to try to understand how my pony feels. Be flexible to my pony’s mood and be willing to take the mental effort required to get creative or hit the reset button.
It’s surprisingly easy for me to get lazy while having big expectations. I’ve got to be conscious of this.
The most important solution, though, was vocab!! Vocabulary is what has gotten me out of the bad and into the good again with Comfort. She feels heard, and I feel understood. Win win!
I discovered, this week, that one of the reasons I feel like I have a great relationship with my dog is because we have a vocabulary we share.
Down, stay, wait, come, OK, sit, leave it, in, out, name recognition, heel, by me, let’s go, good girl, bed, etc.
I feel really good knowing there’s a whole language I have with my dog. I feel like we communicate better and are a team. It occurred to me that without a language for my pony, she’s sort of left out of the conversation all the time. The realization actually sent me reeling into a state of guilt for a few days. So, I’ve started to make words for everything we do, and she’s responding SO well!
We have several new words and phrases, now.
- Name Recognition – I try to say her name before asking her to do something. I expect her to look at me when I say her name.
- Come – I want her nose facing me and her body as close to me as our personal space bubbles allow.
- Whoa/Ho-ooooo – either stop right next to me when leading, come in on the lunge, or “stay” and don’t move while I do stuff – sounds like maybe I need to teach her “stay” too. With riding – stop and don’t move.
- Walk/Trot/Canter/Other Way (turn) – mostly all used on the lunge. Sometimes with riding.
- Slow – for riding, leading, and lunge
- By Me – my nice way of saying there will be consequences if you try to pull ahead of me when I’m leading you. Slow and by me are kind of warning signals for her that’s she’s broken formation.
- Eat Grass– this is something I stole from trainer bestie. She taught this to her pony and I think it’s genius! I point at the ground and say this and Comfort starts grazing.
- Let’s Ride – I say this when I get on the mounting block to ask her to position herself so I can hop aboard.
- Foot, Please – I say this when I ask for her foot to pick her hooves
- Touch – I say this when I want Comfort to sniff something/touch something with her nose
- Back Up – I am trying to distance myself from the physical cue, but it’s taking a lot of work. I am really tired of having to smoosh her chest really hard, because she doesn’t listen the command.
- Walk On – when riding or lunging. I use it as a “let’s get started” command or a “don’t pause there, keep going” command.
- In/Out – for stalls, gates, etc.
- OK – This is my release command. I am sure it’s a given, but I think having a release command is paramount!
I think that’s everything! Considering Comfort can usually learn a new word every three days or less, I feel like we should have a much bigger vocabulary, actually. Are there vocabulary words you use with your horse that you find helpful? Share them in the comments! I’d love to know all about it!
UPDATE! I found somebody else doing similar work with their horse. There’s a nice running list of comments about how people talk to their horses that I found pretty interesting! The blog is called At Home with Horses. The post was written by Michelle Anderson in 2014.