Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Coaching riders and… buying watermelons??

Had a little chuckle in the produce section yesterday J

Hmmm…the process of choosing just the right melon includes the 3 things I consider in choosing just the right solution to offer a horse and rider!

LOOK- We scan the melons comparing one to another - any flaws? I scan horse and rider-looking for resistance, tension, conflicting aids 

LISTEN I'm not sure what tapping the Melon is supposed to do but I do it anyway!
I've learned to listen to my riders more than I did as a younger coach. Does the point of the exercise make sense to you?? Describe what you're feeling-any frustration?  Physical limitations or even pain?  What are your long term and immediate goals?

FEEL- I feel the weight of the melon, picking it up. Checking for soft spots
“May I get on your horse?” Actually feeling the horse may lead to an AHA moment. Resistances, oversensitivity, subtle evasions, an unbalanced or uncomfortable saddle.
Look, listen, feel. Good coaching wisdom.

 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. The Bible (James, chapter 1)

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Tack Traditions

Jim Wofford wrote an insightful piece a while ago in Practical Horseman on the “mindless application of equipment, regardless of whether it is suitable for this horse at this stage of training.” 

What do you think?

He said, “Nosebands are one of my many irritants when coaching.  Almost every horse I see [dressage, eventing] is wearing a flash noseband.  And they are inherently ill-fitting.  These nosebands can interfere with the horse’s normal swallowing mechanism, producing the very resistance they are intended to cure.  Yet when I ask riders whether they have tried other nosebands or even no noseband, they look at me as if I had just stepped down off the ramp of the mother ship.”

I agree with Jim, and routinely ask the riders I teach why they’ve chosen certain tack or training aids.  Often there’s a well-reasoned response.  Other times a shrug -everyone tacks up their horse this way so it must be correct … sigh.

(Jim Woffard is a 3 time U.S. Olympian and World Champion eventer.)

Friday, 11 August 2017

Whales, horses, clicker training

On a Nova Scotia horse judging trip, how cool to detour for some whale watching with my son and his friend!

As horse gals we pondered what it would be like to ride 'em!

We could almost touch them-hmmm...could they have been trained to come so close??

Clicker training has long been used for marine mammals and other animals trained at a distance. And more recently, with horses, especially in liberty work,like Cavalia.

The clicker (marine trainers use a whistle) is a "conditioned reinforcer" (the horse has to be taught to understand it) and used to precisely mark the desired behaviour. Whereas treat delivery can be a little slow to link " that's it!" to a horse's s response, clickers are quicker! And in my opinion, feeding treats to horses opens up a can of worms.

Which, come to think of it would been a tasty treat for the whale :)

Monday, 31 July 2017

Confusing horse training jargon…

Mystical, humorous or deliberately elusive – the terms we use in the horse business can leave a rider scratching her head.  I was a coach’s worst nightmare - “What do you mean by that?” I’d ask . I rarely got a meaningful answer.
When coaching ,I’ll often press a rider to explain a term they’ve used. If they struggle to put it into words, we’ll unpack the idea and isolate the aids step-by-step. 
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Einstein.
Training a non- English speaking horse partner is complicated enough without including vague terms which a prompt riders to give vague signals and horses to be stressed out.  I get a kick out of those light bulb moments – my student grasps the “phonics” of a certain skill and gets results on her own.
So why do we do it? Why do we horse professionals have these weird terms? What are your thoughts?
Here are some of my ideas:
  • ·        Unique terms define my personal brand
  • ·        A little mystery  makes my clients more dependent on me
  • ·        I know how to do it, but struggle to explain it
  • ·        Some horse trainer lingo is just – funny!

So here’s some of the top terms I’m often unscrambling:
Pick up his shoulder. Dropping his shoulder. Drive him into the bridle. Disengage his hip. Engage his hind end. Ride him in front of your leg. And the ever elusive half- halt.
What are your befuddling horse training terms?