If you’ve ever had kids, then you know exactly what I’m talking about here: Let’s say your sons had waited all week to go paint balling. They’d waited all week to do this and they really had their hearts set on it. So, Saturday morning comes around and they run downstairs. They’re headed for the door when you call to them and ask if they couldn’t clean their rooms before leaving. We’ll how do you think they’d handle that? They might get mad and throw a temper tantrum. They just might turn and stomp their feet on every stair all the way back up to their rooms, down the hallway and slammed their doors.
Now there’s several ways you can deal with that. The best is to say “I understand you don’t want to clean your room. But now you’re going to do the dishes and you’re going to vacuum and you’re going to dust and you’re going to clean the garage and when you’re done with that you’re going to fold laundry and you’re going to put the laundry away. Then you’re going to clean your room. After that’s done, you’re more than welcome to go do exactly what you want to do.
I treat the horse the same way. If I ask him to standstill, that’s cleaning his room. I say “Clean your room.” He says “No.” I say “Fine.” Now, what can I do that requires movement? It doesn’t matter if I’m in the arena or the trail. Either way I can work on change of directions. I can work on his headset. I can get the horse working better off my legs, so we can work on that. And I can always work on speed control. I could do all kinds of different things. All those things give me an option of stuff I can work on when and if my horse wants to move. If my horse wants to move, I say, great, let’s do it. Let’s work on breaking at the poll, softening up your neck or following your nose; let’s work on your leg speed; let’s work on you moving off my legs. Let’s do all these different things, and then, when I’m done, I’m going to ask the horse: “Do you want to clean your room?” “Do you want to just stand still?” There’s only two things that can happen. He’s either going to say yes or he’s going to say no.
If you do this about four or five times, the attitude you’re going to build in your kids or your horse is the same thing. It’s going to be, “Is that it?” The next time you ask them to clean their room, they’re gonna say “Is that all you want?” And that’s what I’m looking for from my horse when I ride. All I wanted him to do was standstill. He didn’t want to standstill and I said fine, let’s move. But I promise you, after about four or five times of doing this the horse is going to say “Great, is that all you want?” Now these are all things I need to work on anyway. I don’t look at it as punishment. I’m going to want this horse to move eventually. I’m going to want him to soften up his nose.
The more excited, the more nervous the horse gets, the more you want to do. You don’t want to be riding down the trail, waiting for an accident to happen. There are two types of riders, active and reactive. An active rider does what I’ve been describing. An active rider hits the trail and keeps asking the horse to do something. He’s not giving the horse a chance to react to a situation or the environment around them. He’ll ride and keep asking his horse to do something. A reactive rider is one who goes out on the trail – and waits. He waits for the horse to do something he’s not supposed to do.
He rides out there, waiting for the horse to spook at the red banner. He just knows the horse is going to spook and sits there waiting and waiting and waiting. And yes sooner or later something out on that trail spooks the horse. And then he corrects the horse. The horse spooks at the banner and we get after the horse: “I can’t believe you spooked.” Well, he told you he was going to do it. A better thing to do would’ve been to pick up the rein and start working your horse. Ask him to do something before the situation escalates. Don’t react to what the horse does, become an active rider. Ask him to do something. Actively ride your horse.
About the authors
Josh Lyons: One of the most sought-after clinicians in the world, Josh Lyons offers you and your horse a second chance or an enhancement of your existing relationship. His gentle and objective methods, pioneered by his father John Lyons, have helped novice rider and pro alike. Josh continues the “Lyons Legacy,” teaching the John Lyons Certification Program in Parachute, CO and touring often. He is a frequent contributor to national publications like “Perfect Horse” and “Horse & Rider.” Find out more about Josh Lyons.
Keith Hosman: If your horse won’t speed up, slow down, stop or turn, you missed the latest training methods from Josh and John Lyons. Have you lost your confidence? Want a horse to brag about? Invest one weekend to make big changes with John Lyons Certified Trainer Keith Hosman. Keith is based near San Antonio, TX and is available for clinics, private sessions and training. He frequently partners with fellow Certified Trainer Patrick Benson for clinics and demonstrations — with nearly 30 on his 2006 schedule. For more horse training articles, or to attend a clinic or find a John Lyons trainer living in your area, visit horsemanship101.com now. No part of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of Josh Lyons and Keith Hosman. To contact us regarding reprints or syndication of our articles (in print or online), please contact us via www.horsemanship101.com.