Horsin’ Around 4-19-10
Fort Collins, Colo.
Last Saturday, I took my new little mare to the Cow Sort put on by Wolf Enterprise at the Ranch in Loveland, Colo. Not that I was intending to win any money with her, but I wanted to get her used to being in competition and around a lot of activity to try and settle her down while there and get her used to competing with all the glitz and noise involved. I don’t have the money to get into the big contest with her so I got into the beginner classes twice, which is about all I have funds to enter.
Of course she was nervous and spooked by all the activity, so I tied her up to the rail with all the other horses and walked over to enter. When I got back she was standing well and I didn’t see any marks in the arena floor where she had pawed. So I began riding her in the large exercise area to get her to settle down. She has never bucked with me, knock on wood, but she really gets hyper and does not pay attention the cues I give her. In fact this was the same arena where she was sold, so every time we passed the aisle where we came in, she wanted to go out and back home.
We rode over to the aisle where they posted names and I saw what position I was to compete in. It gets fairly crowded in that area with lots of folks riding back and forth and not paying attention to their horses. This unnerved the little mare more and she would not stand quietly. She constantly wanted to follow other horses as they walked by or was trying to kick at the ones who came up and bumped her from behind. Then I saw that we were waiting in front of the gate to enter the pen where we would be working and every time it was opened, she wanted to go in. But when I rode out into the large pen with plenty of space to visit with my friend, she settled down and stood quietly.
This got me to thinking what I should do to try solving this problem, so when I got home I looked it up in one of my books by Melvin Bradley, “Horses A Practical and Scientific Approach.” What I read was; “Mental conflict results from two opposing urges, both of which are equally strong.” And “such a frustrating environment can be seen at many small shows. A partially trained young horse forced to run the poles in a game class before learning to neck-rein is an example. The horse is urged to race at top speed in a frontal direction. Just as it responds, its head is plow-reined hard in the opposite direction so that the horse will miss a pole. Before it fully collects itself, it is jerked in the other direction, until the course is finished.”
The book goes on to explain how horses exhibit abnormal behavior when faced with problems beyond their power of reasoning or experience. And the uncertain but willing horse may offer all sorts of responses to its rider’s conflicting demands. A good rider must know how to ask for the desired response and must be sensitive enough to know when a poor response is the result of confusion rather than resistance.
Because of the good memory of horses, it is important to remember that horses are being trained each time they are handled. I like to place horse riders into four categories: First are the naggers, the ones who think a horse can do nothing correct. They are constantly picking at the horse to make it do right. Second, is the passenger, usually a beginner who just sets there and lets the horse do whatever it wants. Third is the co-exist rider who usually rides for fun without strict attention to horsemanship practices. Fourth are the progress makers who turn out horses as a result of their experience. I hope I am a progress maker; they make better well-trained horses without a lot of fighting.
Prior to his retirement, Roger Thompson was a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.
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