I’ve had the good fortune of riding many different types of horses. With this experience, I have met horses with varying degrees of inspiration. I find myself wondering how they got to be in the mental state they arrive to me in.

I admit that I have fallen prey to anthropomorphising. I do, after all, LOVE a good story. But, in the end, I can only work with what is in front of me. In the last year, I have found myself having to deal with horses that ranged from the type that would balance my checkbook if I asked, to the type that demands a smoke break before I even get on with the work. Obviously, I prefer the former. But, the latter really demands that I think about how to make things fun and meaningful to the horse.

I really enjoy the process of presenting information that makes sense and instills a confidence in the horses. Seeing them have a ” lightbulb moment” and figure out how to “try” is so much fun.

This makes the work I get o do with them so rewarding.

Winter's Training Puzzle

In late November I put Ripley on the trailer and headed to our 7th Horsemanship clinic with the legendary, Joe Wolter. Every time I have the chance to learn for him, I try my best to make sure I can be there. I always take home really rich nuggets of truth to chew on for the year. And, just like every other time I’ve gone searching for the important lesson meant for me, there Joe was, ready to deliver.

Getting up to the mounting block has been a historic issue for Ripley. One that I spend a lot of time on and have presented every possible way I and a handful of other folks can think of.

Ive gotten him up to the round pen panels, to the fence, and, up to the mounting block. Ive gotten half on and off at least 100,000 times. Seriously. I have been so painstaking in my thoroughness so as to make this seem easy to my horse.

We’ve had a couple of wrecks over the years that have made me quite cautious about mounting and focused on making sure Ripley is prepared.

So, here we are at the clinic. I am really ready to put this whole mounting thing to bed. It’s not that I can’t ride him or even that I feel as though I am stealing rides, it’s just that he is more bothered about it than I think he should be. Joe agreed. But, then, Joe gave me something incredibly important to think about.

Joe said, “ instead of you getting him ready to get on, why don’t you help him get himself ready for you to get on ?”

At first, these concepts seemed so similar. But, I’ve worked with Joe enough to know that there is a lot to explore inside of this simple statement.

And, so, this is what I have spent time this winter thinking about. How much do I fill in for my horse? Am I able to really let him work at something to find his way to a solution?

Im a “doer”. I fill in constantly unless it’s brought to my attention. What I didn’t realize, is that in it’s own way, it’s made my horse a bit anxious.

I have a long way to go, but, I have really made some changes that seem to make a big difference to my horse. Now my approach is completely different. I set things up so that Ripley find his own way to getting ready to be ridden instead of me fixing and filling in for him. This has made the mounting block puzzle so much clearer for him to solve. It has been borne out in the riding as well. He seems so much more confident and relaxed.

This makes the experience of riding him so joyful to me (and, I think, to him!). Which as I recall, is the whole point.

If you’d like to share your experience, feel free to reach out!