Saturday, July 30, 2011
In order to keep their attention I 'resorted' to treats. I struggled with - is it OK to give them treats - is this incentive, bribery or just babying them? They were so willing to work for a small slice of apple, a tiny bite of carrot, a few pellets. But was this really 'correct training'?
(ah, the Catholic girl is still in there!)
Then I went to a Robin Gates Clinic. Robin was a student of Carolyn Resnick's for 20 years. She is certified to teach her method. Both teach Liberty Work with the goal of 'connecting to the heart of the horse'. Carolyn wandered with a herd of mustangs as a child during her summers and eventually was made a member of the herd, even riding the horses at Liberty. Although both Carolyn and Robin are skilled dressage riders, their work is so far from the military style it makes me giggle. And treats - Well, let me tell you at the clinic - there was a complete snack bar! Buckets of pellets, sliced carrots, LOTS of treats!
What I witnessed at the Clinic at 'FromTheMotherFarm' - was just what I had experienced at home, except MORE .... so much MORE!
So, why the treats? What I see is that it's like 'Clicker Training', which is how I gentled Black Elk. The horse goes into seeking mode - thinking, looking for the answer- motivated by the treat. Soon the horse learns that I am the key to the treats, and like the lead mare, the treats are available only when I say so. That makes me pretty important. And they learn there are things they can do to get what they want - pay attention, back up, stay in one spot, circle, walk with you... well the list is endless.
The first week after the clinic I had a student for a week doing an intensive for 2-4 hours a day... so, that is what we did. We had a blast. Shaman and Polly were learning things at lightening speed. It was so much fun! (Polly also had her first riding lessons on Rascal!)
I feel like this is what I was looking for with horses - the joy and freedom that horses represent - the connection with a kind, generous animal. Interspecies communication, Respect for one another, Love. It's all happening. No pushing, no pulling, no hurting. If the horse is disinterested, he walks away - what could be simplier than that!
So, you may wonder, does the horse just wander off? Sometimes, but less and less as time goes on. Mostly, they LOVE to play, they WANT to be with me, and they want the treats and it seems that figuring out how to get them is part of the fun. They get so excited that they offer one thing after another: ' what about a side pass? how about rolling the barrel? how about a nice big trot? what about standing on this stump...or the mounting block?" They are thinking and they are having FUN!! I am having fun and laughing - their ears are up, their eyes bright, they look interested, excited - we are happy with one another.
There have been many gems along the way: calling to Rascal who is out on grass, having him put his head up, look at me and come happily to go play in the arena. Calling all the horses and having them come as a herd. Watching Rascal figure out something new and seeing how excited he is. Having the horses always be aware of where I am and calling to me. Walking with the horses at liberty in companion walking on the property and on the trail. And we are just beginning.....