Now, some poeple would be just fine with this horse being the way he was; in fact, some people's jaws would drop open at how "perfect" this young 5 year old gelding was to ride and work with. And there's nothing wrong with settling for that. All I'm trying to point out is that it is that: settling.
From what I've seen and heard, a horse and rider/trainer pair cannot reach their full potential until their heartstrings are joined in some way and until they come to a conscious understnading of their relationship to each other. And the most important point is that both horse and human are satisfied with where they are in that relationship. People who have friendships with their horses go farther. It's been proven time and again.
I believe a good friendship consists of two persons who lend their strengths where the other is weak and who encourage each other no matter what. In order to do this they need to spend time learning each other's strengths and weaknesses.
But first, they must know each other and make it clear -- by their actions and words -- that friendship, partnership, is what they're implying. We can do the same with our horses; and it is indeed the first step toward joining our heartstrings with theirs and working toward that ultimate potential, no matter what it is you dream to do together.
So I challenge you to do that. No matter where you and your horse are, I challenge you to take a few visits out there to see him and just spend some time watching him be a horse. It doesn't matter if you take one visit to sit and the next to ride -- just go out there and do nothing at least a few times. Take a notebook and pen and write about your horse -- his past, your goals, what his reaction is to your doing nothing instead of training. It may take a while; but if you've never done anything like this before, you'll start to see an entirely different side to your horse. Guess what that "side" is? It's who your horse really is! It's his own unique personality.
I spent the whole of December going out nearly every day to Joey's paddock with a camping chair and my notebook. I refrained from doing anything except watch and study my horse and write whatever popped into my head about my observations. I was shocked to see that through the whole first week, my horse didn't seem to notice me at all. That said a lot about how I made him feel when we were together before.
During the second week, he began to come over at times and investigate every inch of me, from my boots to the tippy-top of my head. I learned that my horse is naturally curious but polite.
When the third week rolled around, my originally head-shy horse was letting me scratch and rub him lightly anywhere I chose.
By the end of the month, I was taking a body brush along with my chair and notepad because he was standing for longer and longer grooming sessions.
But one of the best parts was that he would now whinny sweetly to me every time I came out, as if he looked forward to my visits. No treats or training of any kind were involved.
The first tep toward understanding your partner is watching him do what he does best: being a horse.
Tips to make this step more successful:
1.)Don't expect anything. Keep an open mind.
2.)Be quiet. Try to make it as if you're not even there -- or, better still, as if you were a fly on the wall. ;)
3.)The more days you do this in a row the better.
4.)Log everything that comes to mind as you watch your horse.
The number of days/visits you need to spend just watching your horse will vary and be unique from pair to pair. If you truly have an open mind and are quiet and attentive, your horse will tell you when it's time for the next step.
I would only make these visits at times when I had at least 15 or 20 minutes to sit, so as to be as non-disruptive to his world as possible. My sit-visits were usually around feed time, so Joey had hay to be occupied with.
And don't stop making these visits even as your relationship progresses. It's good downtime well spent; and you could always learn something new. (Sometimes I take my homework out with me.) :)
~Sam + Joey